Journal of Seismology

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 629–651

The 12 May 1802 earthquake (N Italy) in its historical and seismological context

Original Article


The Mw 5.7 earthquake that occurred on 12 May 1802 is the only one with Mw ≥ 5.5 located west of Lake Garda in the central-northern part of the Po Plain, Northern Italy, and the strongest event located in the seismic zone 907 of the ZS9 seismogenic zonation of Italy. Current parametric earthquake catalogs locate the event not far from important cities (e.g., Milan) and to sites where nuclear power plants were to be built in the 1980s or could be built in a near future. Although the earthquake parameters seemed sufficiently well constrained, a detailed investigation of documentary sources was performed, in repositories storing the documents of the Napoleonic departments to which the area affected by the earthquake belonged at that time. In the surviving archival series, we found the officers’ correspondence on all the administrative aspects raised by the earthquake. The newly collected records allowed the authors to significantly increase the number of macroseismic intensity data, including new observations in the most damaged area. The results have been then interpreted in terms of both Mercalli–Cancani–Sieberg and EMS98 macroseismic scales. The earthquake parameters were derived applying two different methods in order to get two independent estimates. Earthquake location is confirmed, although the still scarce data available in the area to the east of the epicenter do not permit to reduce the uncertainty to a minimum. According to the Boxer method, the magnitude is now slightly higher, and the source model shows a good agreement with the tectonic setting of the area.


1802 earthquake Northern Italy Historical seismology Macroseismic intensity Earthquake parameters 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sezione di Milano-PaviaIstituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaMilanItaly

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