ER3D: a structural and geophysical 3-D model of central Emilia-Romagna (northern Italy) for numerical simulation of earthquake ground motion
During the 2012 seismic sequence of the Emilia region (northern Italy), the earthquake ground motion in the epicentral area featured longer duration and higher velocity than those estimated by empirical-based prediction equations typically adopted in Italy. In order to explain these anomalies, we (1) build up a structural and geophysical 3-D digital model of the crustal sector involved in the sequence, (2) reproduce the earthquake ground motion at some seismological stations through physics-based numerical simulations and (3) compare the observed recordings with the simulated ones. In this way, we investigate how the earthquake ground motion in the epicentral area is influenced by local stratigraphy and geological structure buried under the Po Plain alluvium. Our study area covers approximately 5000 km2 and extends from the right Po River bank to the Northern Apennine morphological margin in the N–S direction, and between the two chief towns of Reggio Emilia and Ferrara in the W–E direction, involving a crustal volume of 20 km thickness. We set up the 3-D model by using already-published geological and geophysical data, with details corresponding to a map at scale of 1:250 000. The model depicts the stratigraphic and tectonic relationships of the main geological formations, the known faults and the spatial pattern of the seismic properties. Being a digital vector structure, the 3-D model can be easily modified or refined locally for future improvements or applications. We exploit high-performance computing to perform numerical simulations of the seismic wave propagation in the frequency range up to 2 Hz. In order to get rid of the finite source effects and validate the model response, we choose to reproduce the ground motion related to two moderate-size aftershocks of the 2012 Emilia sequence that were recorded by a large number of stations. The obtained solutions compare very well to the recordings available at about 30 stations in terms of peak ground velocity and signal duration. Snapshots of the simulated wavefield allow us to attribute the exceptional length of the observed ground motion to surface wave overtones that are excited in the alluvial basin by the buried ridge of the Mirandola anticline. Physics-based simulations using realistic 3-D geomodels show eventually to be effective for assessing the local seismic response and the seismic hazard in geologically complex areas.