At 10:25am local time on 18 January 2017, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake in central Italy struck 5km west of the town of Amatrice. 49 mins later at 11:14am a second earthquake occurred measuring 5.7 on the richter scale and then just 11 mins after that, at 11:25am, a third earthquake of magnitude 5.6 occurred.1
Amatrice was also the location of an earlier earthquake in August that devestated the town and killed 234 of its residents. That earthquake of 6.2 magnitude claimed the lives of 299 people throughout the central region.
Italy’s Apennine mountains lie along an active fault line between the Adriatic and Eurasian plates that cause regular seismic activity and an earthquake in central Italy is by no means uncommon. Seismologists report that these quakes have stressed the Laga Fault which is now rupturing.
To compound the issues, at the time of this most recent series of earthquakes yesterday, central Europe is in the throws of a severe winter with the region experiencing heavy snow causing roads to be blocked and rescue efforts to be delayed.
This increasing seismic activity, and the likelyhood that the world will experience much colder temperatures for a significant time equivalent to a mini ice-age due to the cyclical reduction of solar activity (known as a solar minima) is worrying for a country already strained economically and politically. Solar output is also known to effect seismic events on Earth but it is not known whether the two are directly linked in this instance.
In the capital Rome, this earthquake in central Italy was felt resulting in the city’s underground system being evacuated and temporarily closed. In a country mired by a strong socialist mood that has brought inefficiency and corruption, perhaps the government may also be shaken into addressing the construction deficiencies of many buildings in this region.