Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (May 2012)
Active tectonics along the submarine slope of south-eastern Sicily and the source of the 11 January 1693 earthquake and tsunami
South-eastern Sicily has been affected by large historical earthquakes, including the 11 January 1693 earthquake, considered the largest magnitude earthquake in the history of Italy (<i>M</i><sub>w</sub> = 7.4). This earthquake was accompanied by a large tsunami (tsunami magnitude 2.3 in the Murty-Loomis scale adopted in the Italian tsunami catalogue by Tinti et al., 2004), suggesting a source in the near offshore. The fault system of the eastern Sicily slope is characterised by NNW–SSE-trending east-dipping extensional faults active in the Quaternary. The geometry of a fault that appears currently active has been derived from the interpretation of seismic data, and has been used for modelling the tsunamigenic source. Synthetic tide-gauge records from modelling this fault source indicate that the first tsunami wave polarity is negative (sea retreat) in almost all the coastal nodes of eastern Sicily, in agreement with historical observations. The outcomes of the numerical simulations also indicate that the coastal stretch running from Catania to Siracusa suffered the strongest tsunami impact, and that the highest tsunami waves occurred in Augusta, aslo in agreement with the historical accounts. A large-size submarine slide (almost 5 km<sup>3</sup>) has also been identified along the slope, affecting the footwall of the active fault. Modelling indicates that this slide gives non-negligible tsunami signals along the coast; though not enough to match the historical observations for the 1693 tsunami event. The earthquake alone or a combination of earthquake faulting and slide can possibly account for the large run up waves reported for the 11 January 1693 event.