A properly organized seismic network is a valuable tool for monitoring seismic zones and assessing seismic hazards. In this paper we propose a new method (seismic network evaluation through simulation, SNES) to evaluate the performance of hypocenter location of a seismic network. The SNES method gives, as a function of magnitude, hypocentral depth, and confidence level, the spatial distribution of the number of active stations in the location procedure and their relative azimuthal gaps, along with confidence intervals in hypocentral parameters. The application of the SNES method also permits evaluation of the magnitude of completeness (MC), the background noise levels at the stations, and assessment of the appropriateness of the velocity model used in location routine.

Italy sits on a tectonically active plate boundary at the convergence of the Eurasian and African lithospheric plates and has a high level of seismicity. In this paper, we apply the SNES method to the Italian National Seismic Network (Rete Sismica Nazionale Centralizzata dell’Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, RSNC–INGV) which has monitored Italian seismicity since the early 1980s, following the destructive 1980 Irpinia earthquake. In recent years, the RSNC–INGV has grown significantly. In fact, in February 2010, it received signals from 305 seismic stations, 258 with wideband three-component sensors.

We constructed SNES maps for magnitudes of 1.5, 2, 2.5, and 3, fixing the hypocentral depth at 10 km and the confidence level at 95%. Through the application of the SNES method, we show that the RSNC–INGV provides the best monitoring coverage in the Apennine Mountains with errors that for M 2, are less than 2 and 4 km for epicenter and hypocentral depth, respectively. At M 2.5 this seismic network is capable of constraining earthquake hypocenters to depths of about 150 km for most of the Italian Peninsula. This seismic network provides a threshold of completeness down to M 2 for almost the entire Italian territory.

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