International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 108, Issue 6, pp 2047–2056 | Cite as

Surface volume and gravity changes due to significant earthquakes occurred in central Italy from 2009 to 2016

  • Federica RiguzziEmail author
  • Hongbo Tan
  • Chongyang Shen
Original Paper


We have modelled the surface volume and gravity changes caused by four seismic events: three mainshocks (moment magnitude Mw 6.0, 5.9, 6.5) occurred during the last seismic period started on 2016, August 24 in central Italy, and the 2009, April 6 L’Aquila Earthquake (Mw 6.3). Our calculations start from the source parameters estimated by the inversion of the largest dataset of Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and global positioning system observations ever managed in Italy after earthquake occurrences, based on the half-space elastic dislocation theory. The vertical displacements modelled after the 2016 events allow to infer a substantial unbalance between the subsided and uplifted volumes. In particular, we detected ~ 106 × 106 m3 of hangingwall subsidence against ~ 37 × 106 m3 of footwall uplift, that accounts for ~ 74% of the total volume mobilization. From the ratio between the footwall and total deformed volumes, we have computed an average fault dip of ~ 47°, in line with the values retrieved by seismological methods. The total gravity variations which affected the study area are of the order of ~ 1 μGal (1 μGal = 10−8 ms−2) in the far field, and ~ 170 μGal in the near field. The area affected within a gravity change of 1 μGal is ~ 140 km long and ~ 57 km wide, parallel to the Apennines mountain chain. The larger contribution is given by positive variations which account for the tensional style of deformation and larger subsided area. The significant gravity variations modelled from the coseismic deformations point out the need to update our knowledge about the absolute gravity field in Italy carrying out extensive measurements, and to align Italy to the recent international standards about national gravity and height networks (International Association of Geodesy, IAG Report, Commission 2—gravity field,, 2015).


Central Italy 2016 Seismic sequence 2016 Norcia Earthquake 2009 L’Aquila Earthquake Coseismic vertical displacements Surface volume variation Gravity changes 



This study is based on geodetic data and models acquired and processed during the 2016 and 2009 earthquake emergencies, therefore, we are very grateful to Daniele Cheloni and all the INGV Geodetic Team, together we worked intensely and with passion during all that time. We are also grateful to the Reviewers and the Editor, their suggestions helped us to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Geologische Vereinigung e.V. (GV) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Institute of SeismologyChina Earthquake AdministrationWuhanChina

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