Large Historical Tsunamigenic Earthquakes in Italy: The Neglected Tsunami Research Point of View
Thursday, 17 December 2015: 11:35
103 (Moscone South)
It is known that tsunamis are rather rare events, especially when compared to earthquakes, and the Italian coasts are no exception. Nonetheless, a striking evidence is that 6 out of 10 earthquakes occurred in the last thousand years in Italy, and having equivalent moment magnitude equal or larger than 7 where accompanied by destructive or heavily damaging tsunamis. If we extend the lower limit of the equivalent moment magnitude down to 6.5 the percentage decreases (around 40%), but is still significant. Famous events like those occurred on 30 July 1627 in Gargano, on 11 January 1693 in eastern Sicily, and on 28 December 1908 in the Messina Straits are part of this list: they were all characterized by maximum run-ups of several meters (13 m for the 1908 tsunami), significant maximum inundation distances, and large (although not precisely quantifiable) numbers of victims. Further evidences provided in the last decade by paleo-tsunami deposit analyses help to better characterize the tsunami impact and confirm that none of the cited events can be reduced to local or secondary effects. Proper analysis and simulation of available tsunami data would then appear as an obvious part of the correct definition of the sources responsible for the largest Italian tsunamigenic earthquakes, in a process in which different datasets analyzed by different disciplines must be reconciled rather than put into contrast with each other. Unfortunately, macroseismic, seismic and geological/geomorphological observations and data typically are assigned much heavier weights, and in-land faults are often assigned larger credit than the offshore ones, even when evidence is provided by tsunami simulations that they are not at all capable of justifying the observed tsunami effects. Tsunami generation is imputed a-priori to only supposed, and sometimes even non-existing, submarine landslides. We try to summarize the tsunami research point of view on the largest Italian historical tsunamigenic earthquakes; we highlight the open problems, and suggest that tsunami observations and simulations can contribute towards their solution. This study is funded in the frame of the EU Project called ASTARTE - Assessment, STrategy And Risk reduction for Tsunamis in Europe. Grant 603839, 7th FP (ENV.2013.6.4-3).