Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
05 Nov 2009
 | 05 Nov 2009

Clues to the identification of a seismogenic source from environmental effects: the case of the 1905 Calabria (Southern Italy) earthquake

A. Tertulliani and L. Cucci

Abstract. The 8 September 1905 Calabria (Southern Italy) earthquake belongs to a peculiar family of highly destructive (I0=XI) seismic events, occurred at the dawning of the instrumental seismology, for which the location, geometry and size of the causative source are still substantially unconstrained. During the century elapsed since the earthquake, previous Authors identified three different epicenters that are more than 50 km apart and proposed magnitudes ranging from M≤6.2 to M=7.9. Even larger uncertainties were found when the geometry of the earthquake source was estimated. In this study, we constrain the magnitude, location and kinematics of the 1905 earthquake through the analysis of the remarkable environmental effects produced by the event (117 reviewed observations at 73 different localities throughout Calabria). The data used in our analysis include ground effects (landslides, rock falls and lateral spreads) and hydrological changes (streamflow variations, liquefaction, rise of water temperature and turbidity). To better define the magnitude of the event we use a number of empirical relations between seismic source parameters and distribution of ground effects and hydrological changes. In order to provide constraints to the location of the event and to the geometry of the source, we reproduce the coseismic static strain associated with different possible 1905 causative faults and compare its pattern to the documented streamflow changes. From the analysis of the seismically-induced environmental changes we find that: 1) the 1905 earthquake had a minimum magnitude M=6.7; 2) the event occurred in an offshore area west of the epicenters proposed by the historical seismic Catalogs; 3) it most likely occurred along a 100° N oriented normal fault with a left-lateral component, consistently with the seismotectonic setting of the area.