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Earthquake recurrence models and occurrence probabilities of strong earthquakes in the North Aegean Trough (Greece)

A Correction to this article was published on 28 June 2018

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The determination of strong earthquakes’ recurrence time above a predefined magnitude, associated with specific fault segments, is an important component of seismic hazard assessment. The occurrence of these earthquakes is neither periodic nor completely random but often clustered in time. This fact in connection with their limited number, due to shortage of the available catalogs, inhibits a deterministic approach for recurrence time calculation, and for this reason, application of stochastic processes is required. In this study, recurrence time determination in the area of North Aegean Trough (NAT) is developed by the application of time-dependent stochastic models, introducing an elastic rebound motivated concept for individual fault segments located in the study area. For this purpose, all the available information on strong earthquakes (historical and instrumental) with Mw ≥ 6.5 is compiled and examined for magnitude completeness. Two possible starting dates of the catalog are assumed with the same magnitude threshold, Mw ≥ 6.5 and divided into five data sets, according to a new segmentation model for the study area. Three Brownian Passage Time (BPT) models with different levels of aperiodicity are applied and evaluated with the Anderson–Darling test for each segment in both catalog data where possible. The preferable models are then used in order to estimate the occurrence probabilities of Mw ≥ 6.5 shocks on each segment of NAT for the next 10, 20, and 30 years since 01/01/2016. Uncertainties in probability calculations are also estimated using a Monte Carlo procedure. It must be mentioned that the provided results should be treated carefully because of their dependence to the initial assumptions. Such assumptions exhibit large variability and alternative means of these may return different final results.

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  • 28 June 2018

    The original version of this article unfortunately contains mistakes. The mistakes and corrections are described in the following list: 1) Author names were incorrectly presented. The correct format is shown above as well as in the below affiliation section.


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The constructive comments of an anonymous reviewer are greatly appreciated and contributed to the improvement of the manuscript. Gratitude also extended to Dr. M. García Fernández for his editorial assistance. The maps are generated using the Generic Mapping Tool (; Wessel and Smith 1998). All the calculations and plots are made using the MATLAB software ( Fault plane solutions used in this study were taken from We acknowledge support of this work by the project “HELPOS – Hellenic System for Lithosphere Monitoring” (MIS 5002697) which is implemented under the Action “Reinforcement of the Research and Innovation Infrastructure”, funded by the Operational Programme “Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation” (NSRF 2014-2020) and co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Regional Development Fund), Geophysics Department Contribution 908.

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Correspondence to Christos Kourouklas.

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The original version of this article was revised:

Author names were incorrectly presented. The correct format is shown above as well as in the affiliation section. Also, The character lambda (λ) in equation 1 was missing in the PDF version only. These errors have been corrected herein.

Appendix A

Appendix A

Descriptions of strong historical earthquakes occurred across North Aegean Trough (from 1300 to 1900) (Papazachos and Papazacou, 2003 and Ambraseys 2009 and references therein)

The 01 March of 1354 earthquake (M w = 7.2)

This large earthquake with maximum intensity is assigned equal to IX (Imax = IX) caused damage all over the Ganos district and especially at the town of Gallipoli (Genibolu), where the town walls were destroyed. Also, the castles along the coastline from Madytos to Rodestos (Tekirdag) collapsed. It is also felt in a wide area including not only the northeast part of Greece but also Istanbul.

The 01 June of 1366 earthquake (M w = 6.6)

According to a note of a monk of Vatopedi monastery in Mount Athos, an earthquake caused the collapse of a large part of the monastery’s walls and also many cracks in the mosque. Regarding these, this event assigned with maximum intensity equal to VII (Imax = VII) and was associated with the closest segment, namely the offshore Athos one.

The 04 September of 1437 earthquake (M w = 6.8)

There are not many descriptions about the event with maximum intensity equal to VI (Imax = VI). According to the contemporaries, a strong earthquake was felt in Istanbul and also in the Ganos district. This event was followed by two strong aftershocks at 25 and 28 of November. While it was felt in Ganos district, it is associated with the corresponding segment.

The 19 November of 1456 earthquake (M w = 7.0)

This strong earthquake (Imax = VIII) destroyed the island of Lemnos where the castle of Cotsino (Kokkino) was totally collapsed along with the Palaeokastro and many other towers. It is also mentioned in a monk’s of Vatopedi monastery note. This event also dated in 1471 by Papazachos and Papazachou (2003). The given date provided by Ambraseys (2009) and it is considered as more reliable.

The 26 May of 1511 earthquake (M w = 6.8)

There is not clear evidence about this earthquake with maximum intensity equal to VII (Imax = VII). It is mentioned on a note of Megalis Layras monastery’s monk which refers that an earthquake caused many cracks on some buildings of monastery. It also felt in Adrianople (Edirne).

The 28 June of 1585 earthquake (M w = 7.0)

This strong earthquake (Imax = VIII) affected mostly the monasteries of mount Athos. Towers and churches and other buildings were collapsed, including those of the Proavkala, Megalis Layras, Vatopedi, Iviron, and Hiliandari. It seems that a seismic sea wave was generated by the earthquake, which flooded the harbor. Also, few people were killed.

The 17 February of 1659 earthquake (M w = 7.2)

This large earthquake with maximum Intensity assignment equal to VIII (Imax = VIII) was felt in a wide area including the western part of the Ottoman Empire and also the northwest part of the Greek territory. Most of the houses, mosques, and churches in the cities of Tekirdad, Canakkle, and Gelibolou collapsed. Also, in Istanbul caused panic and few buildings were damaged. The fact that the most serious consequences were located in the broader area of the Sea of Marmara leads to the association of this event with the Ganos segment.

The 26 October of 1669 earthquake (M w = 6.8)

There is not clear available information for this event. From a contemporary source, it is derived that it was felt in Istanbul. Also, the event is mentioned in a Greek note from Skiathos. Ambraseys suggests that this was a large distant event that occurred in the north Aegean Sea. In this study, we consider that this event occurred into the Samothraki segment according to its focal parameters provided by Papazachos and Papazachou (2003).

The 01 June of 1707 earthquake (M w = 6.8)

This shock caused the collapse of some parts of the castle in Dardanelles. It was also strongly felt in Smyrna, Mikra Asia, and Istanbul (Imax = VII). From this information seems that the event occurred in the Ganos segment.

The 10 June of 1730 earthquake (M w = 6.5)

This earthquake with assigned maximum intensity equal to VI (Imax = VI) caused damages in the town of Evrese (Kadikoy) in the gulf of Muariz (Saros), in which the new castle had been repaired, and some villages along the trunk road from Thessaloniki to Istanbul. Also, it was felt in Enez and the nearby islands, Mount Athos and Istanbul. According to the sources, this event had an offshore epicenter along the Saros segment.

The 26 November of 1756 earthquake (M w = 6.7)

Serious damages were reported in the region of gulf of Muariz (Saros) caused by this earthquake (Imax = VII). The villages of Zerna, Kozkoy, and Ferecik were totally destroyed and the castles of Evrese (Kadikoy), Bozcaada, and Movilo were repaired. The shock was strongly felt in a wide area including Adrianople (Edirne) and Istanbul.

The 15 November of 1765 earthquake (M w = 6.9)

This shock with maximum Intensity equal to VI (Imax = VI) was strongly felt in the region of Mount Athos. Descriptions of the earthquakes refer that the region was shaken for a long time due to the aftershocks. Also, by a contemporary note, we know that the northeast part of the castle of Canakkale was partly destroyed. This event seems to be felt in a wide area including the city of Thessaloniki. This information leads us to assume that the earthquake was located in the central part of the study area and specifically in the segment of Samothraki.

The 05 August of 1766 earthquake (M w = 7.6)

This strong earthquake (Imax = IX) affected the area between Tekirdag and Murefte in the region of Ganos. The worst damages occurred in the district of Ganochora including the villages and towns of Avdimo (Avdin), Erinochori, Ganos (Gazikoy), Gioltsiki (Golcuk), Hora (Hoskoy), Iraklitsa (Eriklice), Kalamitsi, Kastanbol, Loupida, Milio (Guzel), Myriophyto (Murefte), Neochori (Yenikoy), and Platano (Cinarli), which were totally destroyed with the most of the population buried under the ruins. In the cities of Silivri, Rodestos (Tekirdag), and Gallipoli (Genibolu), ground cracks and liquefied places were reported. The castles of Seddulbahir and Kiliddubahir in the district of Dardanelles were extensively damaged. Also, some damages were reported in Bursa, Izmit, Yalakabad (Yalova), Karamursel, Tenedos (Bozcaada), and Adrianople (Edirne). In the city of Istanbul, the damage was not very serious. The shock was also felt in Athos, Thessaloniki, Smyrna, and Aydin.

The 05 December of 1776 earthquake (M w = 6.7)

There is not clear evidence about this earthquake, which the maximum assigned intensity is VIII (Imax = VIII). In a note written in Dionysioy monastery of Mount Athos, it was reported that Agios Georgios of the Apanokastelos and Agios Nicholaos of Papakioutogioti in the district of Athos were destroyed. The location of Dionysioy monastery in the western part of Athos indicates that this shock was located in the Glayki bank segment in the westward part of NAT.

The 05 March of 1797 earthquake (M w = 6.6)

A note in the codex by the Iviron monastery in Mount Athos refers that terrible earthquakes occurred in the region during March. Also, another note of the Kostamonitou monastery informs us that during the same time, all the friars of Athos left their monasteries. These two sources are available for this shock (Imax = VI). According to the location of the monasteries, the epicenter of the earthquake was probably located in the offshore Athos segment.

The 21 August of 1859 earthquake (M w = 6.9)

This shock (Imax = IX) caused heavy damages in the island of Imvros, where five villages including Panaya, Iskinid, Ag. Theodoros, Pyrgos, and Kastro were totally destroyed. Rockfalls from the mountains, cracks, and liquefied grounds were reported. House of the island of Lemnos also destroyed. The shock was strongly felt in Philippoypoli (Plovdiv), Sofia, Izmir, Bursa, Thessaloniki, and Samothraki. According to the locations of the most of the damages, the shock was located in Saros segment in the east part of NAT.

The 14 June of 1864 earthquake (M w = 7.3)

This strong event (Imax = VII) caused heavy damages to the coastal settlements of Lagos Gulf in the Thraki Province, where the customs house of Yenice (Yenisea) collapsed. In Thessaloniki, few masonry houses including some public buildings were damaged. It was also strongly felt in Strimonas River’s valley (Central Macedonia) and in the island of Skopelos. These facts lead us to associate this earthquake with the offshore Athos segment.

The 14 May of 1887 earthquake (M w = 7.0)

This shock, whose maximum Intensity is equal to VII (Imax = VII), caused the collapse and damage of a few houses on the island of Lemnos without loss of life. It was also strongly felt at Gelibolu, Tekirdag (Redestos), Edirne, and the district of Thrace. This shock had an offshore epicenter north of the island of Lemnos associated with the Samothraki segment.

The 09 February of 1893 earthquake (M w = 6.8)

This strong earthquake caused extended damages in the island of Samothraki, where the maximum Intensity value was assigned (Imax = IX). On the northwest part of the island coasts, few houses were ruined. In the town of Samothraki (Hora), 600 houses collapsed. Also, on the northern part of the island, 40 houses of Loutro were totally destroyed. Rock falls on the Mountains of Vrehu, Agios Georgios, and Fegari were triggered. On the Imvros Island, 30 houses collapsed. Further, on the northern Saros district, the villages of Erekli and Karacali had extended damages. This event had been strongly felt in Thasos Island and in Kavala region in the mainland. Also, felt in a wide area including Nova Zagora and Plovdiv in Bulgaria, Thessaloniki, and Sporades Islands. According to these testimonies and considering the catalog provided by Ambraseys and Jackson (2000), this strong earthquake is associated with Saros segment.

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Kourouklas, C., Papadimitriou, E., Tsaklidis, G. et al. Earthquake recurrence models and occurrence probabilities of strong earthquakes in the North Aegean Trough (Greece). J Seismol 22, 1225–1246 (2018).

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  • Earthquake recurrence time
  • North Aegean Trough
  • Time-dependent models
  • BPT distribution