La Sapienza - Università di Roma

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studying SEABEDS TO UNDERSTAND EARTHQUAKES

28-06-2017

The exploration of the universe has reached Saturn and beyond, but our oceans are greatly unknown. Yet, these sea beds are home to and hide volcanoes and long crust fractures (faults) that may be the source of violent earthquakes, eruptions, underwater landslides and seaquakes, endangering human lives and their socio-economic systems.

The Strait of Messina area in Italy and the nearby Ionian Sea, for example, have given rise to major earthquakes and seaquakes over the last centuries that have led to death and destruction.

Other catastrophic seismic events include those of 1908 (Messina and Reggio Calabria), 1905 (Southern Calabria), 1783 (Southern Calabria), 1693 (Val di Noto), 1169 (Eastern Sicily) and 362 AD (Eastern Sicily and Calabria Southern). In 1908, the victims were more than 80,000. The tectonic and morphological structures from which the above-mentioned earthquakes and seaquakes arose are still totally or partially unknown.

Starting in May 2017, a new scientific project entitled Seismofaults will be implemented by the National Research Council (CNR in Rome and Bologna), the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV in Rome, Palermo and Gibilmanna) and Sapienza University.

The project aims to monitor and explore the seismic faults in the Ionian Sea and the Strait of Messina. In May, during the Seismofaults 2017 oceanographic campaign, the Seismofaults scientific team, with the assistance of the Minerva Uno Ship and its maritime crew managed by Sopromar, installed eight seismometers and two modules with geochemical sensors on the seabed of the Ionian Sea at depths up to approximately 2600 meters. The instruments are very close to the potential epicentre of earthquakes and will record ground movements in case of earthquakes and gaseous emissions of the ionic backbone for a period of 12 months. At the end of this period, the instruments will be released from the ballast that anchors them to the bottom of the sea via an acoustic command from the surface of the sea and will rise to the surface, allowing their recovery and reuse.

The new data will help not only to identify and define the potentially dangerous phenomena of catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis, but also to understand earthquake precursor phenomena, such as abnormalities in seawater desalination.