Ercoli, M., Forte, E., Porreca, M., Carbonell, R., Pauselli, C., Minelli, G., & Barchi, M. R. (2020). Using seismic attributes in seismotectonic research: an application to the Norcia MW 6.5 earthquake (30 October 2016) in central Italy. Solid Earth, 11(2), 329–348. https://doi.org/10.5194/se-11-329-2020
In seismotectonic studies, seismic reflection data are a powerful tool to unravel the complex deep architecture of active faults. Such tectonic structures are usually mapped at the surface through traditional geological surveying, whilst seismic reflection data may help to trace their continuation from the near surface down to hypocentral depths. On seismic reflection data, seismic attributes are commonly used by the oil and gas industry to aid exploration. In this study, we propose using seismic attributes in seismotectonic research for the first time. The study area is a geologically complex region of central Italy, struck during 2016–2017 by a long-lasting seismic sequence, including a Mw 6.5 main shock. Three vintage seismic reflection profiles are currently the only ones available at the regional scale across the epicentral zone. These represent a singular opportunity to attempt a seismic attribute analysis by running attributes like the “energy” and the “pseudo-relief”. Our results are critical, as they provide information on the relatively deep structural setting, mapping a prominent, high-amplitude regional reflector interpreted as the top of basement, which is an important rheological boundary. Complex patterns of high-angle discontinuities crossing the reflectors have also been identified by seismic attributes. These steeply dipping fabrics are interpreted as the expression of fault zones belonging to the active normal fault systems responsible for the seismicity of the region. Such peculiar seismic signatures of faulting are consistent with the principal geological and tectonic structures exposed at surface. In addition, we also provide convincing evidence of an important primary tectonic structure currently debated in the literature (the Norcia antithetic fault) as well as several buried secondary fault splays. This work demonstrates that seismic attribute analysis, even if used on low-quality vintage 2D data, may contribute to improving the subsurface geological interpretation in areas characterized by limited and/or low-quality subsurface data but with potentially high seismic hazard.