Earthquakes for dummies

A bit of a big headline. I’ll explain the earthquakes. Who do I think I am? Well… I’m a geologist. I know the problem. If you want to know about heart attacks, you ask a cardiologist, right? If you lose your tap, you call the plumber, not the cardiologist. Or am I wrong? Geologists know about earthquakes. They have to. It’s a must. Even if they’re not going to deal with earthquakes in their career, they must be familiar with the phenomenon. So, by academic background geologists know very well that earthquakes are an entirely natural phenomenon over which man has no influence. It is due to the fact that the Earth’s lithosphere (the most superficial rocky envelope of the planet) is divided into a series of plates and microplates; most of the earthquakes are distributed along their margins because the plates move one with respect to the other. And huge blocks of rock “rubbing” each other make a big mess. The “mess” are earthquakes: rock breaks, and the energy released at the moment of breaking propagates in all directions in the form of seismic waves, oscillations of the rocky body that also involve the surface on which we live. They are waves completely similar to those generated by a rock thrown into the water (but they are not only those – it’s just to give an idea).

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Earthquakes in Rome

Rome has been hit by earthquakes in the past. There is also evidence on monuments, starting from the Colosseum, as well as evidence of the period. On a general level, I wouldn’t worry much about the “if”. Italy is a seismic zone, nothing much can be done about it. And earthquakes are a natural, inevitable phenomenon. I became a geologist with a thesis on geological structures in the immediate vicinity of Rome. The idea of the supervisor started from morphological features (linear “engravings” visible from satellite – there was no Google Earth to help us) that in the north-south direction seemed to affect the area of Italy’s capital. The question was: do they correspond to seismogenetic structures, i.e. capable of generating earthquakes? So we looked for traces of similar faults on the ground… and found them.

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