Articles | Volume 17, issue 11
Research article
22 Nov 2017
Research article |  | 22 Nov 2017

Integrating faults and past earthquakes into a probabilistic seismic hazard model for peninsular Italy

Alessandro Valentini, Francesco Visini, and Bruno Pace

Abstract. Italy is one of the most seismically active countries in Europe. Moderate to strong earthquakes, with magnitudes of up to ∼ 7, have been historically recorded for many active faults. Currently, probabilistic seismic hazard assessments in Italy are mainly based on area source models, in which seismicity is modelled using a number of seismotectonic zones and the occurrence of earthquakes is assumed uniform. However, in the past decade, efforts have increasingly been directed towards using fault sources in seismic hazard models to obtain more detailed and potentially more realistic patterns of ground motion. In our model, we used two categories of earthquake sources. The first involves active faults, and using geological slip rates to quantify the seismic activity rate. We produced an inventory of all fault sources with details of their geometric, kinematic, and energetic properties. The associated parameters were used to compute the total seismic moment rate of each fault. We evaluated the magnitude–frequency distribution (MFD) of each fault source using two models: a characteristic Gaussian model centred at the maximum magnitude and a truncated Gutenberg–Richter model. The second earthquake source category involves grid-point seismicity, with a fixed-radius smoothed approach and a historical catalogue were used to evaluate seismic activity. Under the assumption that deformation is concentrated along faults, we combined the MFD derived from the geometry and slip rates of active faults with the MFD from the spatially smoothed earthquake sources and assumed that the smoothed seismic activity in the vicinity of an active fault gradually decreases by a fault-size-driven factor. Additionally, we computed horizontal peak ground acceleration (PGA) maps for return periods of 475 and 2475 years. Although the ranges and gross spatial distributions of the expected accelerations obtained here are comparable to those obtained through methods involving seismic catalogues and classical zonation models, the spatial pattern of the hazard maps obtained with our model is far more detailed. Our model is characterized by areas that are more hazardous and that correspond to mapped active faults, while previous models yield expected accelerations that are almost uniformly distributed across large regions. In addition, we conducted sensitivity tests to determine the impact on the hazard results of the earthquake rates derived from two MFD models for faults and to determine the relative contributions of faults versus distributed seismic activity. We believe that our model represents advancements in terms of the input data (quantity and quality) and methodology used in the field of fault-based regional seismic hazard modelling in Italy.

Short summary
In this paper, we present the results of an alternative seismogenic source model for use in a probabilistic seismic hazard assessment for Italy that integrates active fault and seismological data. Combining active faults and background sources is one of the key aspects in this type of approach. The strength of our approach lies in its ability to integrate different levels of available information for active faults in Italy or elsewhere.
Final-revised paper