How geodesy can contribute to the understanding and prediction of earthquakes

  • Giuliano Francesco Panza
  • Antonella Peresan
  • Fernando Sansò
  • Mattia CrespiEmail author
  • Augusto Mazzoni
  • Andrea Nascetti
Satellite Positioning for Geosciences


Earthquakes cannot be predicted with precision, but algorithms exist for intermediate-term middle-range prediction of main shocks above a pre-assigned threshold, based on seismicity patterns. Few years ago, a first attempt was made in the framework of project SISMA, funded by Italian Space Agency, to jointly use seismological tools, like CN algorithm and scenario earthquakes, and geodetic methods and techniques, like GPS and SAR monitoring, to effectively constrain priority areas where to concentrate prevention and seismic risk mitigation. We present a further development of integration of seismological and geodetic information, clearly showing the contribution of geodesy to the understanding and prediction of earthquakes. As a relevant application, the seismic crisis that started in Central Italy in August 2016 with the Amatrice earthquake and still going on is considered in a retrospective analysis of both GPS and SAR data. Differently from the much more common approach, here, GPS data are not used to estimate the standard 2D velocity and strain field in the area, but to reconstruct the velocity and strain pattern along transects, which are properly oriented according to the a priori information about the known tectonic setting. SAR data related to the Amatrice earthquake coseismic displacements are here used as independent check of the GPS results. Overall, the analysis of the available geodetic data indicates that it is possible to highlight the velocity variation and the related strain accumulation in the area of Amatrice event, within the area alarmed by CN since November 1st, 2012. The considered counter examples, across CN alarmed and not-alarmed areas, do not show any spatial acceleration localized trend, comparable to the one well defined along the Amatrice transect. Therefore, we show that the combined analysis of the results of intermediate-term middle-range earthquake prediction algorithms, like CN, with those from the processing of adequately dense and permanent GNSS network data, possibly complemented by a continuous InSAR tracking, may allow the routine highlight in advance of the strain accumulation. Thus, it is possible to significantly reduce the size of the CN alarmed areas.


Earthquakes Prediction Neo deterministic method CN Geodesy 



California–Nevada algorithm for intermediate-term middle-range earthquake prediction


Design ground acceleration


Global navigation satellite system


Global positioning system


Interferometric synthetic aperture radar


Global algorithm for intermediate-term middle-range prediction for the greatest (M ≥ 8) earthquakes worldwide


Macroseismic intensity scale Mercalli, Cancani, Sieberg


Neo deterministic seismic hazard assessment


Peak ground velocity


Peak ground acceleration


Rete Accelerometrica Nazionale–Dipartimento Protezione Civile


Synthetic aperture radar



The authors are indebted with Roberto Devoti, Federica Riguzzi, Riccardo Lanari, Manuela Bonano, Andrea Magrin, and Volodya Kossobokov for contributing GPS data, SAR data, and prior geological information, and for unselfish fruitful discussions that helped shaping up this paper.


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Copyright information

© Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuliano Francesco Panza
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Antonella Peresan
    • 3
    • 4
  • Fernando Sansò
    • 2
    • 5
  • Mattia Crespi
    • 6
    Email author
  • Augusto Mazzoni
    • 6
  • Andrea Nascetti
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute of GeophysicsChina Earthquake AdministrationBeijingChina
  2. 2.Accademia Nazionale dei LinceiRomeItaly
  3. 3.International Seismic Safety Organization (ISSO)RomeItaly
  4. 4.CRS-Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e Geofisica SperimentaleTriesteItaly
  5. 5.DICA-Politecnico di MilanoMilanItaly
  6. 6.Geodesy and Geomatics Division-DICEAUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza”RomeItaly

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