The Seismic Monitoring and Research Group maintains the Malta Seismic Network, which is the only facility in the country that monitors and studies earthquake activity around the Maltese Islands. The SMRG carries out real-time seismicity monitoring and earthquake location, seismic hazard assessment, and geophysical studies on the Maltese archipelago and Central Mediterranean.
The Malta Seismic Network
This consists of eight permanent broadband seismic stations:
- WDD (Wied Dalam, B'Bugia)
- MSDA (University Campus, Msida)
- XLND (Xlendi, Gozo)
- QALA (Qala, Gozo).
- CBH9 (Comino)
- MELT (Mellieha)
- HQIM (Hagar Qim Temples, Qrendi)
- Xrobb l-Ghagin (Marsaxlokk)
The SMRG also possesses four portable tromographs for site response and building investigations, a geophone array, and other geophysical field equipment.
The oldest station of the MSN is the one at Wied Dalam. WDD was installed in 1995 as part of MEDNET - a Mediterranean-wide network of such instruments, managed by the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV), Rome. MEDNET aims to contribute to the broadband instrumental coverage of the Mediterranean with the aim of improving further our knowledge of the structure and dynamics of this region, and thus work towards the goal of minimisation of earthquake losses.In 2003 WDD was upgraded to an online system, transmitting data in real-time to various international data centres. This was achieved through participation of the Physics Department in an EU-funded project MEREDIAN, coordinated by the ORFEUS (Observatories and Research Facilities for European Seismology) Data Centre in de Bilt, the Netherlands. The most important achievement of MEREDIAN was the setting up of the Virtual European Broadband Seismic Network (VEBSN) for real-time transmission of digital seismic data between nodes in this network. Today, data from WDD is transmitted in real time to the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV, Rome) and forwarded to international data centres such as ORFEUS and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS).
The other stations were acquired through national and international funding such as the SIMIT project (Italia-Malta Operational Programme 2007-2013), SIMIT-THARSY project (INTERREG-VA Italia-Malta Operational Programme 2014-2020) and the Gozo Channel Geophysical Investigation project (Transport Malta, 2016). Today, all stations transmit data in real-time to a computer server at the University of Malta through ADSL lines or 4G modems. The Malta Seismic Network was officially registered (code ML) with the Federation of Digital Seismic Networks in 2015.
The SMRG also operates a Virtual Mediterranean Regional Network based on SeisComP3 software. This enables it to acquire real-time data from a large number of Mediterranean and global stations and perform rapid earthquake locations. Alerts about important earthquakes are sent to the Civil Protection Department.
The SMRG is a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre in France, whose major objective is to establish and operate a system for rapid determination of European and Mediterranean earthquake epicentres and transmitting these results immediately to the appropriate international authorities and to the members in order to meet the needs of protection of society, scientific progress and general information.
The aims of the Malta Seismic Network are:
- to continuously monitor and interpret seismic activity in the central Mediterranean, in particular around the Maltese islands, and identify active faults in the sea bed of the Sicily Channel
- to use this information toward the assessment of the seismic hazard in the Maltese Islands. This assessment will in turn provide needed input to various agencies, such as the Civil Protection Department, insurance agencies, urban planners, etc.
- to enhance the epicentral location capability in the Central Mediterranean
- to contribute to the constant global accumulation of seismic data and to the worldwide coverage of seismic events by as dense as possible a network of digital seismographs. Such coverage continues to yield ever more accurate information about the Earth’s structure
- to make use of the data for further geophysical/geological studies of the Mediterranean basin, in particular the Central Mediterranean.