Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 1959–1968, 2011

Special issue: Progress in research on earthquake precursors

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 1959–1968, 2011

Research article 14 Jul 2011

Research article | 14 Jul 2011

Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) European multi station magnetic field analysis before and during the 2009 earthquake at L'Aquila regarding regional geotechnical information

G. Prattes1, K. Schwingenschuh1, H. U. Eichelberger1, W. Magnes1, M. Boudjada1, M. Stachel1, M. Vellante2,3, U. Villante2,3, V. Wesztergom4, and P. Nenovski5 G. Prattes et al.
  • 1Institut für Weltraumforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (IWF/ÖAW), Graz, Austria
  • 2Dipartimento di Fisica, Università dell'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy
  • 3Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Rome, Italy
  • 4Geodetic and Geophysical Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Sopron, Hungary
  • 5Geophysical Institute, Sofia, Bulgaria

Abstract. This work presents ground based Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) magnetic field measurements in the frequency range from 10–15 mHz from 1 January 2008 to 14 April 2009. In this time period a strong earthquake series hit the Italian Abruzzo region around L'Aquila with the main stroke of magnitude M = 6.3 on 6 April 2009. In the frame of the South European Geomagnetic Array (SEGMA), a European collaboration runs ULF fluxgate instruments providing continuously magnetic field data recorded in mid- and south Europe. The main scientific objective is the investigation of signal variations due to seismic activity and the discrimination between other natural and human influences. The SEGMA station closest to the L'Aquila earthquake epicenter is L'Aquila observatory located in the epicenter region. For the scientific analysis we extract the nighttime period from 22:00–02:00 UT and determine the power spectral density (PSD) of the horizontal (H) and vertical (Z) magnetic field components and the standardized polarization ratio (Z) over (H). To discriminate local emissions from global geomagnetic effects, data from three SEGMA stations in distances up to 630 km from the epicenter region are analyzed and further compared to the independent global geomagnetic ∑ Kp index. Apart from indirect ionospheric effects, electromagnetic noise could be originated in the lithosphere due to tectonic mechanisms in the earthquake focus. To estimate the amplitude of assumed lithospheric electromagnetic noise emissions causing anomalies in the PSD of the (Z) component, we consider magnetotelluric calculations of the electric crust conductivity in the L'Aquila region. Results found at L'Aquila observatory are interpreted with respect to the lithosphere electrical conductivity in the local observatory region, the ∑ Kp index, and further in a multi station analysis. Possible seismic related ULF anomalies occur ~2 weeks before the main stroke.