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Antonio Schettino Personal Page

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Research interests and goals

My current research concerns:

1 - Plate Kinematics of the central Atlantic region

The breakup of Pangaea, and the subsequent origin of the modern continents, occurred in two main steps. During the first, relatively short, interval encompassing the late Triassic–early Jurassic time interval, both Laurasia and southeast Gondwana separated from central Pangaea, a large continental block comprising Africa and SouthAmerica (e.g. Schettino & Scotese 2005). The second, much longer, time interval spanned the entire Cretaceous and was characterized by further fragmentation of the three continental masses formed previously. This research has, as a first objective, to reconstruct the kinematics of the central Atlantic region through the analysis of marine magnetic anomalies.

A second goal of this project is to investigate the interaction between active spreading pulses, associated with mantle heterogeneities, and tectonic processes. In particular, I want to study the consequences of temporal variability in magma supply along mid-ocean ridges for plate kinematics and far-field tectonic processes. An excellent natural laboratory for studying temporal variations in the accretion of new oceanic crust is the mid- Atlantic Ridge north of the Atlantis fracture zone. I have recently shown that episodes of high spreading rates characterized the accretion of new oceanic crust in the area between Morocco and North America during the Oligocene and early Miocene, driving the contemporaneous formation of the Atlas mountain belt in North Africa (Schettino & Turco, 2009). In this model, an independent “Moroccan plate” that existed in the central Atlantic during the Tertiary moved eastward with respect to northwest Africa. If confirmed, this fast eastward motion could be explained in terms of driving force exerted by the Azores plume head. Therefore, the central Atlantic region should offer an opportunity to study the relation between fast spreading pulses and far-field compressional tectonics along the conjugate margins. To investigate this relation, I propose an integrated geological, geochemical, and geophysical study of central Atlantic region, aimed at assessing the existence of an independent Moroccan plate during the Cenozoic. The resulting kinematic model will be linked to the geodynamic evolution of the Azores hotspot, to detect any unbalance between relative plate velocity and magma supply rate through time. Finally, I will attempt building a general geodynamic model of mantle circulation for the central Atlantic.

2 - Deformation of the subducting lithosphere

The subduction of oceanic lithosphere is accompanied by downdip and lateral deformation. The downdip component of strain is associated with external forces that are applied to the slab during its sinking, namely the gravitational force and the mantle resistance to penetration. However, a tectonic plate is also subject to a predictable amount of lateral deformation as a consequence of its bending along the arcuate trench zone, independently from the long-term physical processes that have determined the actual curvature of the subduction zone. In particular, the state of lateral strain and the lateral strain rate of a subducting slab depend from geometric and kinematic parameters, such as the trench curvature, the dip function and the subduction velocity. A study of the geometry and seismicity of the modern subduction zones is being performed, to assess the validity of the theoretical relationship between trench curvature, slab dip function, and lateral strain rate proposed by Schettino & Tassi (2012).

3 - Mesozoic and Cenozoic global plate tectonic reconstructions

The goal of this research, which was formerly carried out with C. R. Scotese (Paleomap Project - University of Texas at Arlington), is to produce high-resolution plate tectonic reconstructions, starting from Triassic. New computational methods have been developed in paleomagnetic analysis, in order to obtain a detailed and reliable apparent polar wander path (APWP) for Central Africa. This paleomagnetic reference frame will be soon refined to take into account of non-dipolar palaeomagnetic field components. I am currently using marine magnetic anomaly, paleomagnetic and geologic data, as well as computer graphics to aid in understanding the break-up of Pangaea and subsequent evolution of the continental blocks and oceanic basins. A new high-resolution definition of the plate boundaries for past tectonic configurations, the determination of age and depth of the ocean floor in the geologic past, the determination of the absolute velocity field, are the main features of this new approach to plate tectonic modelling.

4 - Tectonic history of the Mediterranean region

This research focuses on the reconstruction of the past plate motions in the Mediterranean region since the early Triassic. The kinematic relationships between lithospheric blocks in this area determine the geologic structures that can be observed in the field, as well as the character of the sedimentation process. My research combines the standard geophysical data sets and techniques with geologic constraints, in order to refine our knowledge of the past history of the Mediterranean region.

5 - Development of computational methods and algorithms in spherical geometry, applied to plate tectonic modelling

Computational Geometry represents a relatively new branch of theoretical Computer Science, but its importance in practical applications (GIS, CAD, CAM, etc.) has grown considerably during the last decade. The main objects that are concerned in Computational Geometry are polygons. Polygons are also used in plate tectonic modeling to represent tectonic plates, crustal blocks and other geographic features, but the metric space where these objects are defined is a spherical surface. A spherical polygon has vertices that are unit vectors and edges represented by great circle arcs. Hence, classic algorithms of standard Computational Geometry must be adapted to work in this somewhat different topological context. For instance, I have shown that intersection and triangulation of spherical polygons are complex operations that require special management. Moreover, any plate kinematic model collects a set of spherical polygons in a tree structure (the rotation tree), because we only know relative displacements (i.e. Euler rotations) between pairs of adjacent blocks or plates. The root of this tree is then moved according to paleomagnetic and/or hotspot constraints. In order to dynamically reconstruct the position of the continents through time and generate animated sequences, we must therefore design efficient algorithms to be associated to the rotation tree. I am currently working to this class of problems. All the algorithms developed so far have been included in PCME, a plate tectonic modelling software designed by me. Some of them have been published, whereas other articles will be written as soon as possible.

6 - 3-D plate reconstructions

The main goal of this research project is to reconstruct the changing 3-D geometry of subducted slabs starting from plate kinematics. Studying the distribution of subducted lithosphere in the Earth's mantle through seismic data analysis is an important field of current geophysical research, strongly related to the study of the dynamics governing mantle convection mechanism and the destruction of oceanic lithosphere at convergent margins. However, relatively few efforts have been made so far to link the results of seismic tomography and other techniques of seismic data analysis with plate kinematics. Recent tomographic models, which revealed the presence of fossil subducted slabs in the Tethyan region, can be compared with the predicted geometry of subduction, resulting from the study of past plate motions. The objective of this new project is to produce a 3-D model of subduction for the western Mediterranean region, which is fully compatible with the plate kinematics of this area since the early Cretaceous, allowing an interpretation of the observed seismic velocity anomalies and partially filling the existing gap between mantle tomography data and plate motions model predictions.

Who am I?

I am an assistant professor of Geophysics and Structural Geology at the University of Camerino, Italy. From 1982 to 2002 I was a software developer and consultant in Milan, Italy, with scientific interests in the application of advanced algorithms to geosciences. During this period I collaborated with academic institutions in Italy (universities of Milan and Camerino) and the USA (university of Texas at Arlington) to the design and implementation of software for plate tectonic modelling. My academic track started in 2002, when I obtained a PhD grant in Earth Sciences from the University of Camerino. From 2002 onward my scientific interests are focused on global tectonics, plate kinematics, and geodynamics, with a special emphasis on the tectonic evolution of the central Atlantic and Mediterranean regions. I participated to five financed research projects and wrote 16 scientific papers, 5 of which were published in the period preceding the academic track. From 2006 onward I taught courses of solid earth geophysics and theoretical principles of geophysical prospecting (potential fields), and supervised one graduate student in Geophysics. I am fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and regular member of the American Geophysical Union. At present (July 2012), my H-index is 8.


MSc. Degree in Physics, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy Dissertation Topic: Quantum Theory of Gauge Fields Supervisors: Prof. G.F. De Angelis - Prof. Kensuke Yoshida Conferred: December 15, 1980 Grade: 110/110

Ph.D. in Earth Sciences, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy Dissertation Topic: Plate Kinematics of the Western Mediterranean Region during the Oligocene and early Miocene Supervisor: Prof. E. Turco Conferred: July 20, 2005

Working Experience

University Teaching

Other Teaching Activities

Research Activity


Research Publications

Schettino, A., 1998. Computer aided paleogeographic reconstructions, Computers & Geosciences, 24(3), 259-267.

Schettino, A., 1999a. Polygon intersections in spherical topology: Application to Plate Tectonics, Computers & Geosciences, 25(1), 61-69.

Schettino, A., 1999b. Computational methods for calculating geometric parameters of tectonic plates, Computers & Geosciences, 25(8), 897-907.

Schettino, A., and Scotese, C.R., 2001. New Internet Software Aids Paleomagnetic Analysis and Plate Tectonic Reconstructions, Eos Trans. AGU, 82(45).

Schettino, A., and C. R. Scotese, 2002. Global kinematic constraints to the tectonic history of the Mediterranean region and surrounding areas during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, in: Reconstruction of the evolution of the Alpine-Himalayan orogen, edited by Rosenbaum, G. and Lister, G. S., Journal of the Virtual Explorer, 7, 147-166.

Schettino, A., and C. R. Scotese, 2005. Apparent polar wander paths for the major continents (200 Ma - Present Day): A paleomagnetic reference frame for global plate tectonic reconstructions, Geophysical Journal International, 163(2), 1-33.

Turco E., A. Schettino, P. P. Pierantoni, and G. Santarelli, 2005. The Pleistocene extension of the Campania Plain in the framework of the Southern Tyrrhenian tectonic evolution: morphotectonic analysis, kinematic model and implications for volcanism, in: De Vivo, B., Volcanism in the Campania Plain, Developments in Volcanology, vol. 9, p. 27-51, Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Schettino, A., and E. Turco, 2006. Plate kinematics of the Western Mediterranean region during the Oligocene and early Miocene, Geophysical Journal International, 166(3), 1398-1423.

Milia, A., E. Turco, P.P. Pierantoni, & A. Schettino, 2009. Four-dimensional tectonic-stratigraphic evolution of the Southeastern peri-Tyrrhenian Basins (Margin of Calabria, Italy). Tectonophysics, Tectonophysics, 476(1-2), 41-56, DOI: 10.1016/j.tecto.2009.02.030.

Schettino, A., and E. Turco, 2009. Breakup of Pangaea and plate kinematics of the central Atlantic and Atlas regions, Geophysical Journal International, 178(2), 1078-1097.

Schettino, A., Tassi, L. & Turco, E., 2010. Reply to comments by C. Labails and W. Roest on ‘Breakup of Pangaea and plate kinematics of the central Atlantic and Atlas regions’, Geophysical Journal International, 183, 99-102, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2010.04741.x.

Schettino, A. & Turco, E., 2011. Tectonic history of the western Tethys since the late Triassic, Geological Society of America Bulletin, 123(1/2), 89–105, doi: 10.1130/B30064.1.

Ligi, M., Bonatti, E., Caratori Tontini, F., Cipriani, A., Cocchi, L., Schettino, A., Bortoluzzi, G., Ferrante, V., Khalil, S., Mitchell, N.C. & Rasul, N., 2011, Initial burst of oceanic crust accretion in the Red Sea due to edge-driven mantle convection, Geology, 391(11), 1019-1022, doi:10.1130/G32243.1.

Schettino, A., 2012. Magan: A new approach to the analysis and interpretation of marine magnetic anomalies, Computers & Geosciences, 39C, 135-144, doi:10.1016/j.cageo.2011.07.007.

Schettino, A., & Tassi, L., 2012. Trench curvature and deformation of the subducting lithosphere, Geophysical Journal International, 188(1), 18-34, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2011.05262.x.

Turco, E., Macchiavelli, C., Mazzoli, S., Schettino, A. & Pierantoni, P.P., 2012. Kinematic evolution of Alpine Corsica in the framework of Mediterranean mountain belts, Tectonophysics, doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2012.05.010.

Citation Statistics

Geophysical Journal International – Articles published in 2005: 330 Schettino (2005) is in the top 15 (4.55%)

Geophysical Journal International – Articles published in 2006: 367 Schettino (2006) is in the top 64 (17.44%)

Geophysical Journal International – Articles published in 2009: 423 Schettino (2009) is in the top 86 (20.33%)

Published Articles (1998-2012): 16
Number of citations: 209
Cites/Paper: 13.06
H-Index 8
HI,norm 7
G-Index 14

Technical Skills, Computer Languages and Software

Languages: C, C++, Assembly, Fortran, HTML

Operating Systems: Windows, UNIX

Programming: General scientific programming, Database design and programming, Internet programming (server-side and client-side), GIS algorithms.

Affiliations and Memberships

American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) fellowship

Biographical Information

Citizenship: Italian

Date of Birth: February 25, 1956

Place of Birth: Giffoni Valle Piana, Salerno, Italy

Marital Status: Married

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