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Authors: Sbarra, Paola* 
Burrato, Pierfrancesco* 
Tosi, Patrizia* 
Vannoli, Paola* 
De Rubeis, Valerio* 
Valensise, Gianluca* 
Title: Inferring the depth of pre-instrumental earthquakes from macroseismic intensity data: a case-history from Northern Italy
Issue Date: 2019
Series/Report no.: /9 (2019)
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-51966-4
Abstract: Determining the hypocentral depth of pre-instrumental earthquakes is a long-standing geophysical issue that still awaits to be elucidated. Using very well documented recent earthquakes we found that the depth of crustal and upper-mantle events correlates well with the slope of the first 50 km of their intensity attenuation curve, regardless of their magnitude. We used this observation to build a magnitude-independent method for calculating the depth of selected historical and early-instrumental earthquakes of northern Italy based on their macroseismic intensity field. Our method relies on both standard intensity data and questionnaire-based data for 20 earthquakes, encompassing a relatively large range of magnitude (Mw 4.0-5.8) and depth (3.0-72.4 km), that occurred in Northern Italy between 1983 and 2019. We then used the method to estimate the depth of 20 older earthquakes that occurred in the same region between 1570 and 1972. Knowing the approximate depth of historical earthquakes is crucial for assigning them to the relevant seismogenic source, especially where seismogenic faults occur at different depths, allowing for a better characterisation of the region's seismotectonic setting. Knowing the focal depth also allows recalculating the equivalent magnitude, which turns out to be consistently larger for deeper events, suggesting a reassessment of the local seismic hazard.
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