Articles | Volume 12, issue 5
Research article
24 May 2012
Research article |  | 24 May 2012

Application of Environmental Seismic Intensity scale (ESI 2007) to Krn Mountains 1998 Mw = 5.6 earthquake (NW Slovenia) with emphasis on rockfalls

A. Gosar

Abstract. The 12 April 1998 Mw = 5.6 Krn Mountains earthquake with a maximum intensity of VII–VIII on the EMS-98 scale caused extensive environmental effects in the Julian Alps. The application of intensity scales based mainly on damage to buildings was limited in the epicentral area, because it is a high mountain area and thus very sparsely populated. On the other hand, the effects on the natural environment were prominent and widespread. These facts and the introduction of a new Environmental Seismic Intensity scale (ESI 2007) motivated a research aimed to evaluate the applicability of ESI 2007 to this event. All environmental effects were described, classified and evaluated by a field survey, analysis of aerial images and analysis of macroseismic questionnaires. These effects include rockfalls, landslides, secondary ground cracks and hydrogeological effects. It was realized that only rockfalls (78 were registered) are widespread enough to be used for intensity assessment, together with the total size of affected area, which is around 180 km2. Rockfalls were classified into five categories according to their volume. The volumes of the two largest rockfalls were quantitatively assessed by comparison of Digital Elevation Models to be 15 × 106 m3 and 3 × 106 m3. Distribution of very large, large and medium size rockfalls has clearly defined an elliptical zone, elongated parallel to the strike of the seismogenic fault, for which the intensity VII–VIII was assessed. This isoseismal line was compared to the tentative EMS-98 isoseism derived from damage-related macroseismic data. The VII–VIII EMS-98 isoseism was defined by four points alone, but a similar elongated shape was obtained. This isoseism is larger than the corresponding ESI 2007 isoseism, but its size is strongly controlled by a single intensity point lying quite far from others, at the location where local amplification is likely.

The ESI 2007 scale has proved to be an effective tool for intensity assessment in sparsely populated mountain regions not only for very strong, but for moderate earthquakes as well. This study has shown that the quantitative definition of rockfall size and frequency, which is diagnostic for each intensity, is not very precise in ESI 2007, but this is understandable since the rockfall size is related not only to the level of shaking, but also depends highly on the vulnerability of rocky slopes.