A passion for the most violent phenomena on Earth. In 2012 I was in Padua and I felt the strong earthquake that hit the city with a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter scale. I was studying geology and I fell in love with these research tells from Pasadena Luca Dal Zilio. The earthquake is one of the most incredible natural manifestations – he adds – They make you feel how much the Earth is alive, but still mysterious. Precisely to decipher the enigmas of our planet, which lead to mourning and disasters, the 31-year-old scientist from Treviso at Caltech, the California Polytechnic, temple of seismology. the most important place in the world to investigate how and why the Earth trembles – he says – I dreamed of coming. In his classrooms Charles Richter conceived the scale to measure the phenomenon going beyond the Mercalli scale. And then another illustrious geophysicist, Hiroo Kanamori, perfected it. Despite his age I still see him arriving at the Seismological Laboratory, says Dal Zilio with admiration, who is now engaged in an avant-garde study. He had arrived on the American coast after his doctorate at the ETH in Zurich, the federal polytechnic, the best center in the sector in Europe, which in recent months, recognizing the value of his studies, awarded him the Silver Medal. Now – he continues – I take care of most devastating earthquakes of 8 and 9 degrees of magnitude following a project funded by the US Geological Survey and the Swiss National Science Foundation dedicated to North America.
The research of Dal Zilio, the rising star of seismology, takes place on the most fascinating frontier linked to the creation of mathematical models that try to explain the birth and evolution of the massive underground movements capable of upsetting the surface. The surveys carried out with GPS and radar satellites allow us to capture the most minute movements of the ground. With this data, collected in critical areas by the California, al Japan, all’Italy, thanks to supercomputers we carry out numerical simulations capable of reconstructing the very slow processes that occur in two or three hundred years and from which, suddenly, shocks and ruptures of the earth’s crust can be unleashed. Not only that: we also manage to project ourselves into the future by describing possible earthquakes capable of emerging in a thousand years. After the considerable progress achieved with sophisticated terrestrial and space technologies, we are now entering a real revolution by resorting to artificial intelligence, to algorithms capable of describing previously unattainable aspects.
The earthquake in Nepal
The road is not easy, as demonstrated by the earthquake in Nepal in 2015 which caused eight thousand deaths. It surprised us – admits the scientist – because many estimates had developed an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.5 and instead the seismometers stopped at 7.8. In figures it seems little but the difference in the energy expressed represents a considerable leap. The different result became an intriguing challenge for us. In addition to the research conducted in recent months in the home because of the pandemic (Here there are too mild restrictions, too many victims, people think more about the economy, comments) Luca added the teaching. My classes have students enrolled in Caltech but connected in distant countries, from Asia to Europe, blocked by the virus. I like to explain my science to people and before Covid I attended public meetings because we need to spread the culture of the earthquake, helping with information to develop awareness. This is why it is important to share the seismic literacy day promoted for tomorrow by theNational Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology Ingv. We are still far from being able to predict an earthquake. But there is a defense: compliance with anti-seismic regulations and the safety of old buildings. In the United States, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6 causes 1% of the damage it does in Italy. The house must be a refuge from natural events, not a place to escape.
January 11, 2021 (change January 12, 2021 | 19:24)