Crustal and deep seismicity in Italy (30 years after)

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A. Amato
C. Chiarabba
G. Selvaggi


The first modern studies of seismicity in Italy date back to the late 60's and early 70's. Although with a sparse seismic network available and only a few telemetered short-period stations, significant studies were carried out that outlined the main features of Italian seismicity (see, e.g., Boschi et al., 1969). Among these studies, one of the most important achievements was the reconnaissance of a Wadati-Benioff zone in Southern Tyrrhenian, described for the first time in detail in the papers of Caputo et al.(1970, 1973). Today, after three decades of more and more detailed seismological monitoring of the Italian region and tens of thousands earthquakes located since then, the knowledge of the earthquake generation processes in our country is much improved, although some of the conclusions reached in these early papers still hold. These improvements were made possible by the efforts of many institutions and seismologists who have been working hard to bring seismological research in Italy to standards of absolute quality, under the pivoting role of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica (ING). From the relocation of about 30000 crustal earthquakes and detailed studies on intermediate and deep shocks carried out in the last few years, we show that seismic release in peninsular Italy is only weakly related to the Africa-Eurasia convergence, but rather is best explained by the existence of two separate subduction/collision arcs (Northern Apennines and Southern Apennines-Calabria-Sicily). The width of the deforming belt running along peninsular Italy is 30 to 60 km, it is broader in the north than in the south, and the two arcs are separated by a region of more distributed deformation and stress rotations in the Central Apennines. Along the belt, the reconnaissance of regions of continuous and weak release of seismic energy, adjacent to fault areas which are currently «locked» (and therefore are the best candidates for future earthquakes) is another recent important achievement of the prolonged detailed seismic monitoring of our territory, which will provide in the future more and more precise indications of where earthquakes will strike. In addition, the accurate location of hundreds of intermediate and deep earthquakes beneath the two arcs has recently provided (together with seismic tomography results) new hints on the tectonic setting of Italy and its evolution over time, on the relations between deep processes and crustal stress, and ultimately on the mechanisms of earthquake generation in our country.

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Amato A, Chiarabba C, Selvaggi G. Crustal and deep seismicity in Italy (30 years after). Ann. Geophys. [Internet]. 1997Nov.25 [cited 2022Jul.7];40(5). Available from:

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