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This study provides the mathematical framework for the rigorous combination of coseismic offsets observed by a global positioning system (GPS) network and investigates the results obtained on the occasion of the recent Emilia earthquakes (Italy). This seismic sequence that affected northern Italy from May 20, 2012, allowed two offset fields to be computed, one with reference to the mainshock (M 5.9, followed by two other M 5.1 events on the same day), and a second with reference to the replicas that occurred on May 29, 2012 (M 5.8, M 5.3 and M 5.2; ISIDe data archive, http://iside.rm.ingv.it). The final displacement field is basically the result of a comparison and validation process with repeated feedback between the different analysis groups at the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV; National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology) that was established to obtain prompt coseismic displacement solutions, as precise as possible, and in the first days after an event. This is important for early seismic-source evaluation as it represents the most complete and validated dataset at the very early stage of a seismic crisis, and it is also extremely useful in reducing random and systematic errors in the estimated parameters. This study is the result of a cooperative effort that involved different research groups at INGV, with the sharing of all of the collected GPS data. The intention was to compare these results and thus reducing sources of error associated with individual processing strategies, to allow the final combination of the different displacement fields into a single consensus solution. The process assessed the robustness of each single GPS result, thus minimizing erroneous interpretations of individual solutions. […]
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