Why Italy’s Earthquake Was Weird

Posted on May 24, 2012

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A strong and unusually shallow earthquake struck northern Italy over the weekend, fracturing pavement, sending torrents of brick and rubble raining down from buildings, and killing seven people. The powerful shaking was a first for the region in centuries — and fairly surprising to seismologists.

Data indicate the magnitude 6.0 quake, which struck just after 4 a.m. local time on Sunday (May 20), just north of Bologna, was a thrust quake — the type of earthquake caused when two tectonic plates smash together — yet it occurred at a depth of just 3 miles (5 kilometers).

“It is kind of surprising that it’s that shallow, because it’s pretty far from the plate boundary,” said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “Normally we expect things to get deeper as they move northward,” he told OurAmazingPlanet.

The strong quake rocked an area with a long history of earthquakes, yet one that has kept relatively quiet for hundreds of years.

“There has not been a whole lot of action in that area,” Caruso said. “The fact that they do have records of earthquakes going back a couple thousand years shows this area hasn’t been seismically active for a long time,” he said.

Read more at Discovery News

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