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Vol. 52, n.3, September 2011
pp. 367-387

The 2009 L’Aquila (central Italy) seismic sequence

L. CHIARALUCE, C. CHIARABBA, P. DE GORI, R. DI STEFANO, L. IMPROTA, D. PICCININI, A. SCHLAGENHAUF, P. TRAVERSA, L. VALOROSO and C. VOISIN

Received: April 7, 2010; accepted: October 15, 2010

Abstract

On April 6 (01:32 UTC) 2009 a MW 6.1 normal faulting earthquake struck the axial area of the Abruzzo region in central Italy. The earthquake heavily damaged the city of L’Aquila and its surroundings, causing 308 casualties, 70,000 evacuees and incalculable losses to the cultural heritage. We present the geometry of the fault system composed of two main normal fault planes, reconstructed by means of seismicity distribution: almost 3000 events with ML≥1.9 occurred in the area during 2009. The events have been located with a 1D velocity model we computed for the area by using data of the seismic sequence. The mainshock, located at around a 9.3 km depth beneath the town of L’Aquila, activated a 50o (+/- 3) SW-dipping and ~135o NW-trending normal fault with a length of about 16 km. The aftershocks activated the whole 10 km of the upper crust up to the surface. The geometry of the fault is coherent with the mapped San Demetrio-Paganica and Mt. Stabiata normal faults. The whole normal fault system that reached about 40 km of length by the end of December in the NW-trending direction, was activated within the first few days of the sequence when most of the energetic events occurred. The main shock fault plane was activated by a foreshock sequence that culminated with a MW 4.0 on March 30 (13:38 UTC), showing extensional kinematics with a minor left lateral component. The second major structure, located to the north close to Campotosto village, is controlled by an MW 5.0 event, which occurred on the same day of the main shock (April 6 at 23:15 UTC), and by an MW 5.2 event (April 9 at 00:53 UTC). The fault plane shows a shallower dip angle with respect to the main fault plane, of about 35o with a tendency to flattening towards the deepest portion. Due to the lack of seismicity above a 5 km depth, the connection between this structure and the mapped Monti della Laga fault is not straightforward. This northern segment is recognisable for about 12-14 km of length, always NW-trending and forming a right lateral step with the main fault plane. The result is a en-echelon system overlapping for about 6 km. The seismicity pattern also highlights the activation of numerous minor normal fault segments within the whole fault system. The deepest is located at around a 13-15 km depth, south of the L’Aquila mainshock, and it seems to be antithetic to the main fault plane.

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