Natural Hazards

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 149–167 | Cite as

The 1780 seismic sequence in NE Sicily (Italy): shifting an underestimated and mislocated earthquake to a seismically low rate zone

  • R. AzzaroEmail author
  • F. Bernardini
  • R. Camassi
  • V. Castelli
Original Paper


The southernmost sector of the Italian peninsula is crossed by an almost continuous seismogenic belt capable of producing M ∼ 7 earthquakes and extending from the Calabrian Arc, through the Messina Straits, as far as Southeastern Sicily. Though large earthquakes occurring in this region during the last millennium are fairly well known from the historical point of view and seismic catalogues may be considered complete for destructive and badly damaging events (IX ≤ I o ≤ XI MCS), the knowledge and seismic completeness of moderate earthquakes can be improved by investigating other kinds of documentary sources not explored by the classical seismological tradition. In this paper, we present a case study explanatory of the problem, regarding the Ionian coast between the Messina Straits and Mount Etna volcano, an area of North-eastern Sicily lacking evidence of relevant seismic activity in historical times. Now, after a systematic analysis of the 18th century journalistic sources (gazettes), this gap can be partly filled by the rediscovery of a seismic sequence that took place in 1780. According to the available catalogues, the only event on record for this year is a minor shock (I = VI MCS, M w = 4.8) recorded in Messina on March 28, 1780. The newly discovered data allow to reinstate it as the mainshock (I = VII–VIII MCS, M w = 5.6) of a significant seismic period, which went on from March to June 1780, causing severe damage along the Ionian coast of North-eastern Sicily. The source responsible for this event appears located offshore, 40-km south of the previous determination, and is consistent with the Taormina Fault suggested by the geological literature, developing in the low seismic rate zone at the southernmost termination of the 1908 Messina earthquake fault.


Historical seismology Macroseismic data MCS-EMS intensity scales 1780 Seismic sequence Seismotectonics NE Sicily 



We wish to thank both Carlos Caracciolo and Nico Marino for having provided some of the new historical data used in this study. Special thanks are also due to Maria Serafina Barbano for her helpfulness in retrieving some of the historical sources identified.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Azzaro
    • 1
    Email author
  • F. Bernardini
    • 2
  • R. Camassi
    • 2
  • V. Castelli
    • 3
  1. 1.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaSezione di CataniaCataniaItaly
  2. 2.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaSezione di BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaSezione di BolognaVarano (AN)Italy

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