Building an Earthquake History for Europe

Scientists of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences have compiled for the first time a harmonised catalogue of earthquakes for Europe and the Mediterranean region, going back a thousand years, and consisting of approximately 45,000 earthquakes.

Such a database provides governments and aid organisations reliable information for risk assessment of earthquakes and quake generated tsunamis, as well as being a great foundation for a range of other geoscientific research.

“The catalogue that we present here covers the earthquakes of the last thousand years with magnitudes of Mw 3,5 and larger in the northern part of our research area and magnitudes Mw4,0 for the southern part,” explains Dr. Gottfried Grünthal of the GFZ. “Our earthquake catalogue stretches over an area from the Azores to the Caspian Sea and from the Sahara to the North Cape.”

Map of epicentres Mw ≥ 6 quakes in EMEC , plate boundaries (red) and selected first order fault (black).

The catalogue, which was reported on in the latest issue of the Journal of Seismology, was based on 80 national earthquake catalogues, more than 100 other sources, and some inhouse analyses of key historical earthquakes in the region. The European-Mediterranean Earthquake Catalogue (EMEC) offers the first reliable database for the region which covers such a long period of time and includes a harmonised assessment of earthquake magnitudes.

The EMEC brings together a huge range of sources, some historical, others scientific, and as a result required a lot of work to harmonise the measurements. Particular care was taken to harmonise the intensity scales in the form of moment magnitude, Mw, a scale used by seismologists to measure the size of earthquakes in relation to the amount of energy released.

The earthquakes listed in the EMEC are catalogued from 1000 AD to 2006.

“Part of the EMEC-publication is also a list of so-called fake-quakes, i.e. quakes that have been reported erroneously due to errors of the chroniclers, errors in dates or other mistakes,” explains GFZ scientist Gottfried Grünthal.

Source: GFZ German Research Centre

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