Glacial geomorphology, fluvial geomorphology, hillslope geomorphology, submarine geomorphology, tectonic geomorphology...

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

Tectonic Geomorphology - L'Aquila


On the 6th April 2009, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Abruzzo region of Central Italy, killing over 300 people. The area lies within the Central Apennines and is undergoing extension along NW-SE trending faults in relation to back-arc extension in the Tyrrehenian Sea and Afro-Eurasia collision.
Geologists claim to have predicted the 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila one month prior to the event, using evidence from Radon emission patterns. However, these views were seen as overly 'alarmist' by the Italian director of Civil Defence. Since the earthquake, and to much furore, Italian geologists and officials have been indicted for manslaughter for not predicting the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. This step has caused disillusionment amongst many reknowned structural geologists and seismologists who understand the difficulty in predicting the precise location (and more importantly, timing) of earthquake events.

Have a fly around on google earth and have a look at the tectonic geomorphology of the region. Note the bell-shaped displacement profiles of the major fault segments, the relay zones and the major backtilted fault blocks. How do you think the soft lake sediments on which the city is built influenced the severity of the earthquake? Why was the city built in this location in the first place? Which areas would you think are at risk of rupture based on the current landscape? How has the drainage interacted with the fault segments?