Anomalous thermal infrared (TIR) emissions have widely been detected by satellite sensors before the major earthquakes. A recent processing technique for geostationary thermal data, developed for the case of the 2009 April 6, magnitude 6.3 L'Aquila earthquake, makes it possible to identify areas of enhanced TIR emissions around the epicentral region at a mean distance of less than 50 km but inside a radius of about 100 km. The index, called Night Thermal Gradient (NTG), derived from 4-D time-series data (two spatial and two temporal coordinates), identifies TIR anomalies by following the temperature trend during night, when the surface of the Earth is expected to cool. Leading up to the L'Aquila earthquake, an anomalous warming trend was observed. In this study, the anomalous NTG pattern is compared to the expected normal trend, taking into account the seismogenic faults, the overall tectonic setting, lithological spatial features, the orography and world stress map near the epicentral region. Main results are that a certain lithological selectivity can be recognized and that the known main stress field and seismogenic faults seem to be less important than certain tectonic lineaments, which are classified as non-seismogenic. The strong correlation between the topography and the TIR anomalies is in agreement with proposed physical mechanism for the generation of TIR anomalies. This relation is, in turn, present mainly in correspondence to two tectonic lineaments which in particular are thrusts: therefore, strong compressive states seem to be a positive condition for the generation of TIR anomalies. The temporary modification of these stress fields have triggered the Paganica Fault to its normal rupture mechanism. It is important to note that the distances, over which the TIR anomalies occurred, are an order of magnitude larger than the estimated length of the main fault rupture. Pixel-by-pixel time-series comparisons between the maximum TIR anomaly area and the epicentre of the main shock show that the increase in radiative emission occurred in the areas of maximum TIR anomalies and did not start by spreading outward from the epicentral region.

Authors: 
Piroddi, Luca;Ranieri, Gaetano;Freund, Friedemann;Trogu, Antonio
Journal: 
Geophysical Journal International
Publication Year: 
2014
DOI: 
10.1093/gji/ggu123