Simulation of the 20 May 2012 earthquake in Northen Italy (c) IMAGINE_IT

The facts & the project

Anticipating the effects of major seismic events is a major challenge for society as a whole and one that requires a solid understanding of the geophysical processes at work, as well as of the internal structure of the Earth.

Identifying the key mechanisms that can cause an earthquake in order to determine operational scenarios is a particularly difficult task as it depends both on the ability of scientists to accurately “picture” the internal geological structure of the planet on various scales and to process the mass of data recorded during previous earthquakes.

The IMAGINE_IT project, led by Dimitri Komatitsch, Director of Research at CNRS, in very close link with the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome (Emanuele Casarotti, Federica Magnoni, Daniele Melini,Alberto Michelini, et al.) and US partners, is working to produce a full and detailed high definition image of the subsurface structures of the whole of Italy, because the country is a highly vulnerable earthquake zone (Aquila in2009, Émilie-Romagne in 2012).

The results

With an allocation of 40 million hours on the Curie supercomputer through PRACE, the team set itself the ambitious objective of producing a model of the subsurface structures of Italy, in three dimensions and in very high resolution using the SPECFEM3D acoustic imaging software.

Launched in September 2014, for one year, this work - which requires an enormous amount of computing time to take into account all the various parameters involved - is a world first for the region.