Abstract

The 2 February 1816 North Atlantic earthquake is virtually unknown to the international scientific community, and the few existing studies—solely based on two or three macroseismic intensities—pointed to a magnitude near 7 and a location at the eastern end of the Gloria fault in the Azores‐Gibraltar Fracture Zone (AGFZ). Through careful search, we discovered more than 40 independent macroseismic observations and were able to estimate a total of 26 values of intensity, covering a wide geographical area (Iberian Peninsula, Madeira, and Azores). To apply the Bakun and Wentworth (B&W) method to the macroseismic dataset, we also deduced intensity–distance attenuation equations for the three different Atlantic coasts. The B&W procedure enabled us to conclude that the 2 February 1816 earthquake had a moment magnitude of 8.6±0.3 at the 95% confidence level and an epicentral location of 37.8° N and 19.8° W, near the central part of the Gloria fault. These results place the event as the greatest known earthquake in the Gloria fault domain and as one of the greatest ever seismic events along the AGFZ, probably only surpassed by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

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