Mary Tobin

Reports from the Field

CAT/SCAN: Calabria-Apennine-Tyrrhenian / Subduction-Collision-Accretion Network
A Joint American-Italian Project to Monitor Earthquakes on the Most Active Seismic Belt in Italy

The Italian peninsula across the Mediterranean Sea is part of the tectonic plate boundary - the accommodation zone -- between the Eurasian and the African plates, which continue to move closer to each other. This motion controls the long-term evolution of the boundary, but recent geologic changes suggest a more rapid tectonic event superimposed on the slow motion of the big plates and localized to the Apennine arc. This signature event of the Italian peninsula is most dramatically manifested in the current deformation along the Calabrian portion of the arc and is the main focus of this project.

Researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in conjunction with researchers from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, are working to deploy 50 portable digital broadband seismographs throughout southern Italy. These instruments will record both global and regional earthquakes for 18 months. Researchers are also working to deploy an additional 10 digital broad-band ocean-bottom seismometers (OBS) offshore for a period of 12 months. Researchers will use signals from distant earthquakes to develop a catscan, or a three dimensional image, of the Earth's crust and mantle beneath the Italian Peninsula of the earth. read more background information on project

After installing a station in an old convent just outside Montella, a building in Craco (pictured above) seemed another perfect place for a seismograph station, free from cultural noise that can cause problems in seismic readings.

Report 3: The Castle Strategy (read report 1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
by Art Lerner-Lam, Director, Center for Hazards and Risk Research

With the Twelfth Day marking the close of the holiday season in this part of the world, the CAT/SCAN instrument deployment phase is kicking into high gear. This week, the weather cleared and we received permission from the "Department of the Belle Arti" to install a station in the restored old convent just outside (and above!) Montella. This is an inspiring place, restored with sensitivity and obvious pride. We drove to the site, climbing a winding road through chestnut groves and small pastures, and met the caretaker at the gate. His father had been the previous caretaker, and he grew up at the convent. One of the requirements of this installation, and rightly so, is that the presence of anything "modern" be completely camouflaged, so that nothing detracts from the historical ambiance of the convent. The station itself is hidden in a buried utility room, while the only part that must be exposed, the GPS antenna that provides our timing signal, is hidden in a mound of sod on one of the small stone buttresses surrounding the door. The caretaker helped us by chiseling a hidden recess for the connecting cable. As geologists, we pound on million-year-old rocks with abandon. But rock hammers have no place in the vicinity of a structure of this magnificence.

The "castle strategy" is one way to roam the countryside looking for stations. Castles (or convents and monasteries) are built on high ground on bedrock, and are usually isolated from the cultural noise that can cause problems in seismic recordings. Whether it is in private or public hands, the pride that residents take in the local castle offers a degree of local partnership that civil bureaucracies have difficulty matching. But in some areas, our good relationship with the government leads us to more preferable sites. This was the case when we installed our next stations in an old stable at an agricultural research station near Castel del Monte, and in a small government-owned building in Craco, near Matera.

Craco (pictured) is perched on a vertically-inclined stream-bed conglomerate indicative of the incipient continental collision in the southern Apennines. Thus the station is perfectly positioned to illuminate the transition between oceanic subduction to the southeast and continental collision to the northwest. Although our colleagues at INGV identified the station site for us, and we were assisted by the local caretaker, Mr. D'Onofrio, we're happy that we showed the station to a war veteran, Francesco, and his daughter, Michelina, living across the street. They'll look after the site for us.

Near Craco, we stayed overnight in a hotel in Castellaneta, with dozens of photos of Rudolph Valentino on the walls. When we told the owner that we recognized the silent film star, he looked at us as if we were nuts. "Don't you guys know anything? Valentino was born in Castellaneta." The name of the hotel is "Rudy". We had failed to connect the dots.

Finally, we installed a station in a shed near a wheat field and vineyard belonging to Mr. Santangelo, just outside of Tricarico. This, too, is a beautiful site, high on a hill in a quiet area. Mr. Santangelo is a friend of Mr. Pancrazio, the former mayor, who, in turn, is a friend of Nano Seeber's brother. The station was installed by Chad Holmes and John Armbruster, with help from Mr. Salvatore Esposito. Afterwards, we had a late lunch in Mr. Pancrazio's apartment in the center of town. Pasta pomodoro, sausage, cheese, fruit, wine from Basilicata, and plenty of conversation. Food and science are great social lubricants.

Stations Successfully Established to Date
Location Station Name Latitude (N) Longitude (E)
Grottaminarda GROM 41.07273 15.05993
San Andrea di Conza SACO 40.84334 15.37066
Minervino SX11 41.06107 16.19686
Pietragalla SX17 40.73606 15.84757
Venosa VENO 40.96443 15.82340
San Giovanni a Piro SGIO 40.04098 15.45745
Cocozzello (Cosenza) CO22 39.49259 16.30505
Capaccio Vecchio CAVE 40.45000 15.00540
San Marco la Catola   41.51685 15.0076
Montella   40.83333 15.03333
Casteldelmonte   41.05000 16.25000
Craco   40.38333 16.43333
Tricarico   40.61667 16.15000

This joint project involves researchers from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO): Michael Steckler, Leonardo Seeber, Arthur Lerner-Lam, and Maya Tolstoy; and researchers from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV): Alessandro Amato, Gianni B. Cimini, Claudio Chiarabba, Marco Cattaneo, and President Enzo Boschi. Support provided by the Continental Dynamics Program of the US National Science Foundation. Additional support provided by the NSF EAR Instrumentation and Facilities program through IRIS, and the OCE MG&G program through the OBS deployments and support of the OBSIP facility.

Additional collaborators include: Universita di Cosenza (Prof. Ignazio Guerra); Protezione Civile (government agency and local volunteer networks); Comuni (Town governments); Grottaminarda; San Andrea in Conza; Montella (Avellino); Venosa (Foggia); San Giovanni a Piro; Craco (Matera).

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