Late quaternary sediments in Lake Zürich, Switzerland

G. S. Lister, F. Giovanoli, G. Eberli, P. Finckh, W. Finger, Q. He, C. Heim, K. J. Hsü, K. Kelts, C. Peng, C. Sidler, X. Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Lake Zürich occupies a glacially overdeepened perialpine trough in the northern Middlelands of Switzerland. A total of 154.4 m of Quaternary sediments and 47.3 m of Tertiary Molasse bedrock has been cored from the deepest part of the lake, some 10 km south of the city of Zürich. Some 16.8 m of gravels and sands directly overlying the bedrock include basal till and probably earliest subglacial fluvial and lacustrine deposits. These are overlain by 98.6 m of fine-grained, glacial-aged sediments comprising completely deformed proglacial and/or subglacial lacustrine muds, separated by four basal mud tills. The lack of interglacial sediments, fossils, and other datable material, and the presence of severe sediment deformation and unknown amounts of erosion prevent the establishment of an exact chronostratigraphy for sediments older than the upper mud till. Above it some 8.6 m of lacustrine muds were deposited, folded, faulted, and tilted during the final opening of the lake at about 17,500-17,000 years ago. Superimposed are 30.4 m of final Würm and post-glacial sediments comprising (from oldest): cyclic proglacial mud, thick-bedded and laminated mud, a complex transition zone, laminated carbonate, laminated marl, and diatom-calcite varves. These sediments reflect changing catchment and lacustrine conditions including: glacial proximity, catchment stability, lake inflow characteristics, thermal structure, chemistry, and bed stability. Average sedimentation rates ranged from 11 cm yr-1 immediately after glacier withdrawal, to as low as 0.4 mm yr-1 as the environment stabilized. The lack of coarse outwash deposits separating the fine-grained glaciolacustrine sediments from a corresponding underlying basal till suggests that deglaciation of the deep northern basin of Lake Zürich was by stagnation-zone retreat rather than by retreat of an active ice-front.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-205
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Geology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Soil Science


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