Italy is one of the most earthquake-prone regions in Europe. To its south lies the boundary of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates that partition the earth’s crust. In 1905 and 1908, Europe’s strongest-ever quakes, both more than magnitude 7, rattled the Messina Strait, a narrow strip of water that divides Sicily and the mainland, killing approximately 200,000 people. Aftershocks continued into 1913.
By evaluating radon emissions, researcher Giampaolo Giuliani claims to have forecast the 6.3 earthquake that left tens of thousands of people homeless in central Italy last April (seismic map pictured)—although his claim was met with considerable skepticism from other experts. If Giuliani continues his prediction research, maybe he can tell us if another quake of similar magnitude will indeed strike this century, as some scientists have suggested. Century-old buildings line the streets of cities like L’Aquila where the 2009 earthquake hit, making the large tremors all the more damaging.