Friday 16 August 2013

Magnitude 4.3 Earthquake on eastern Sicily.

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 4.3 Earthquake at a depth of 10 km under eastern Sicily, slightly after 1.05 am on Friday 16 August 2013 local time (slightly after 11.05 pm on Thursday 15 August GMT). There are no reports of any damage or casualties from this quake, though it was reportedly felt locally.

The approximate location of the 16 August Sicily Earthquake. Google Maps.

Italy is in an unusual tectonic setting, with the west of the country lying on the Eurasian Plate, but the east of the country lying on the Adriatic Plate, a microplate which broke away from North Africa some time in the past and which is now wedged into the southern margin of Europe, underlying eastern Italy, the Adriatic Sea and the west of the Balkan Peninsula. This, combined with the northward movement of the African Plate into Italy from the south, leads to uplift in the Apennine Mountains that run the length of the country, and makes Italy extremely prone to Earthquakes. 

Historically Italy has suffered a number of devastating Earthquakes that lead to large numbers of casualties, though in recent decades the country has made serious attempts to prevent this, with better warning systems and tighter building regulations, though the large number of historic buildings in Italy, which cannot easily be replaced (and any attempt to do so would be unlikely to succeed due to their high cultural value), meaning that the country is unlikely to be completely risk free any time soon.

This has been complicated by an ongoing series of corruption scandals in the Italian construction industry, and, alarmingly, the decision by a court in October 2012 to gaol six leading Earth scientists for failure to predict a quake. It is unclear how this will affect Italy's future ability to deal with geohazards, as it is likely that scientists will refuse to participate in programs that might result in prosecutions. 

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