Natural hazards off southern Italy

The continental margins of southern Italy lie along converging plate boundaries that are affected by intense seismicity and volcanic activity.

Most of the coastal areas have seen major earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis in both the past and the present. The most prominent example is the earthquake in Messina on December 28, 1908 (magnitude Ms = 7.3; estimated 80,000 deaths), which triggered one of the most devastating tsunamis in Europe’s recent history. Around 2,000 people in addition lost their lives as a result of this tsunami.

So far, researchers with seismic measurements along the continental margins of southern Italy have not yet been able to clearly prove whether this tsunami was triggered by a sudden vertical movement along a major fault during the earthquake or as a result of a giant marine slide initiated by the earthquake. In order to obtain more reliable data as a basis for risk assessments, for example on the repetition rates of such large landslides, scientists from the Center for Ocean and Society regularly take part in research trips to the relevant areas off Italy and carry out long-term series of measurements.

Photo: Felix Gross

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Dr. Felix Gross