Abstract

The 23 km long Sulmona normal fault flanks the southwestern slope of the Mount Morrone range in the central Apennines. To date, the recent activity of this structure is uncertain, as the faulting evidence concerns only undated deposits and the fault cannot be associated with any of the strong historical earthquakes (Mw>6.5) of the region. Our observation from ∼1  Ma offset slope breccias, coupled with new tephrochronological data on faulted early Last Glacial lacustrine infilling of the Sulmona basin, implies a vertical slip rate of ∼0.5  mm/yr over both the long term and middle term. Moreover, at the apex of a Late Pleistocene alluvial fan, radiocarbon dating of offset stratigraphy uncovered in four paleoseismological trenches shows that repeated earthquakes resulted in more than 4 m of vertical offset since ∼9  ka, providing again a minimum Holocene vertical slip rate of ∼0.5  mm/yr. In combination with the results of the trench exposure, we define four faulting events in the past ∼9  ky  B.P., and at least one before then. The most recent is constrained by robust radiocarbon dates as the middle of the second century A.D. The penultimate event was around the middle of the fifth millennium B.P., whereas the other two events are dated in a time between 8.5 ky to 6.5 ky B.P. and around 9 ky cal B.P. The oldest occurred before 9.5 ky B.P. As well as revealing the unexpected paleoseismic history of the Sulmona silent fault, our data provide a recurrence time for Mw≥6.5 earthquakes of ∼2.4  ky versus an elapsed time of ∼1.85  ky since the last event. The latter matches with an earthquake previously hypothesized through archaeoseismic clues collected from several Roman settlements of the Sulmona Plain, all of which were dated to halfway through the second century A.D.

Online Material: Table of major‐element compositions, field photos, and Harker diagrams.

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