The Induced Seismicity group is led by Professor Stefan Wiemer primarily researches the monitoring, understanding and assessment of hazards associated with man-made earthquakes. The topic of induced earthquakes is increasingly under discussion around the world, since many different kinds of human activity can trigger earthquakes underground. In Switzerland, induced earthquakes are mainly associated with geothermal power projects. In 2006, the high-pressure injection of water into the subsoil caused an earthquake in Basle with a magnitude of 3.4. In 2013, a magnitude 3.5 earthquake occurred near St. Gallen.
But earthquakes are also triggered when the subsoil is breached for other reasons, such as the injection of CO2 or wastewater, for the conventional and unconventional extraction of crude oil and natural gas through fracking, or in mining and tunneling. Furthermore, man-made alterations to the Earth’s surface can also trigger earthquakes, for instance when reservoirs are filled with water for the first time.
Assisted by local seismic networks, the Induced Seismicity group has monitored numerous earthquake sequences (e.g. St Gallen, Basle), sometimes working alongside the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) and EnergieSchweiz (see GEOBEST-CH). Working in close collaboration with the Swiss Competence Centre for Energy Research-Supply of Electricity (SCCER-SoE), the group develops methods for estimating and minimising seismic hazards associated with geothermal power plants. In 2015, the group organised an international workshop on induced seismicity for more than 150 participants on Schatzalp mountain in Davos.