Northern Italian Earthquake of May 2012 Has Complex Tectonic Setting

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Location of the Italian Earthquake of May, 2012. Image courtesy of USGS

Europe is not the most earthquake-prone region of the world, but even Europeans are not completely safe from quakes. Although much of the continent is tectonically stable, the south, in particular, is prone to regular and often significant earthquakes. The tremor of May 20, 2012, which took place just to the north of the Apennine mountain range, is therefore by no means an unusual occurrence.

The May 2012 Earthquake

Typically, Italy’s earthquakes occur in the Apennine mountains: the event which occurred in May 2012 was slightly unusual in that it occurred in the lower-lying flat plain which lies between the Apennines in the south, and the Alps to the north. Preliminary USGS data indicate that the earthquake had a magnitude of 6 (M6.0). It occurred at a depth of around 3 miles, some 22 miles NNW of the city of Bologna.

At the time of writing, news reports on the BBC indicated that seven people were killed. and dozens more were injured by the earthquake, which struck in the middle of the night. Around 3,000 people were reportedly left homeless as the quake caused extensive damage to buildings in the local area.

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