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Creating a Libyan Earthquake Archive: From Classical Times to the Present

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Document pages: 16 pages

Abstract: Libya’s seismicity has been considered relatively minor, however, several earthquakes of magnitude larger than 5.0 have occurred since Roman times. The scope of this study is to identify and chronicle past seismic frequency and magnitude in Libya by translating, analyzing, and compiling historical sources and archaeological data of Libya’s seismic history. The earliest references to earthquakes have been found in historic records and archaeological data since 262 AD. Archaeological evidence was found to support Latin records that stated that the shock destroyed much Cyrene also affecting most of the Province of Cyrenaica. In 704 AD, a large shock destroyed towns and villages across the Sebha region. While in 1183, a violent tremor shook Tripoli. In 1935 and 1939, a series of large earthquakes struck the Hun Graben area, including one of magnitude 7.1 on April 19, 1935—considered the strongest earthquake in Libyan history. The coast of northeastern Libya in Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar areas continues to be a seismically active region. In 1963, the Roman outpost of Barca (modern Al-Marj) was razed by an earthquake of moderate magnitude (5.6 Ml). Offshore earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.6 and 4.9 occurred in Tripoli in 1974 and 1976. In addition, several tremors of 4 to 5.6 magnitude were recorded in northeastern and northwestern Libya between 1990 and 2019. With little previous knowledge of Libya’s quake history, an estimate of seismic periodicity and event consequences is problematic. Such an archive of seismic hazards (frequency, location, magnitude) is fundamental to estimating seismic risk (future events, consequences).

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