Antonio Schettino Personal
Research interests and goals
My current research concerns:
- Plate Kinematics of the central Atlantic region;
- Deformation of the subducting lithosphere;
- Mesozoic and Cenozoic global plate tectonic reconstructions;
- Tectonic history of the Mediterranean region;
- Development of computational methods and algorithms in spherical geometry, applied to plate tectonic modelling;
- 3-D plate tectonic reconstructions.
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
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
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
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
- 1980-2002: Software Consultant and Teacher of Computer Science in Milan, Italy
- 2002-2005: PhD Student, research assistantship, University of Camerino, Italy
- 2005-2006: Post-doc researcher in Tectonics at the University of Camerino, Italy;
- 2006-Present: Assistant professor of Geophysics at the University of Camerino, School of Science and Technology, via Gentile III da Varano, 62032 Camerino (MC), Italy
- 2000-2001: University of Milano, Scuola di Specializzazione in Genetica Applicata, Course of Informatics and Data Management, 3 CFU;
- 2002-2003: Politecnico di Milano, Course of UNIX: System and Network Administration, 8 CFU;
- 2002-2003: Politecnico di Milano, Course of C Programming, 8 CFU;
- 2006-2009: University of Camerino, Master Degree in Geoenvironmental Resources & Risks, Course of Applied Geophysics, 5 CFU;
- 2006-2010: University of Camerino, Master Degree in Geoenvironmental Resources & Risks, Course of Geophysical Methods in Archaeology, 7 CFU;
- 2007-2012: University of Camerino, Degree in Geological Sciences, Course of Physics of the Solid Earth, 6 CFU;
- 2008-2009: University of Camerino, Master Degree in Geoenvironmental Resources & Risks, Course of Complementary Physics, 5 CFU;
- 2009-2012: University of Camerino, Master Degree in Geoenvironmental Resources & Risks, Course of Geophysical Prospecting, 5 CFU;
Other Teaching Activities
- 2007: Tutor of a MSc Thesis in Applied Geophysics;
- 2008-2010: Supervisor of a PhD student (Luca Tassi) in marine geophysics;
- 2010: Tutor of a degree thesis in marine geophysics;
- 2011: Co-tutor of an MSc thesis in plate tectonics;
- 2010: Instructor of the Italian team for the 2010 Earth Sciences Olympiad (IESO 4th edition);
- 2011: Instructor of the Italian team for the 2011 Earth Sciences Olympiad (IESO 5th edition)
- 2012: Instructor of the Italian team for the 2011 Earth Sciences Olympiad (IESO 6th edition)
- 1996-1997: Design and implementation of PCME (PaleoContinental Map Editor), a software package for the generation and displaying of paleotectonic maps;
- 1997-2005: Research collaborator of the Paleomap Project - University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas, project leader Prof. C.R. Scotese. The objective of this research was to obtain a set of plate tectonic reconstructions at global scale since the early Jurassic through the analysis of palaeomagnetic data and marine magnetic anomalies;
- 1999-2000: Participation to the MIUR-COFIN 1997 funded research project “Relationship between surficial tectonic lineations and deep structures of the Calabrian Arc”, working unit of the University of Camerino, project leader prof. E. Turco. This participation concerned the design and implementation of specific software tools for the application of palaeotectonic modelling tools to regional-scale problems;
- 2005-2006: Participation to the MIUR-COFIN 2004041440 funded research project “Mesozoic Rifts of the central Mediterranean area: palaeogeography and tectonic evolution”, working unit of the University of Camerino, project leader prof. E. Turco. This research required the palaeotectonic modelling of the western Mediterranean area since the Triassic;
- 2007-2008: Participation to the MIUR-COFIN 2006041544 funded research project “Adria: Promontory of the African plate or indipendent microplate?”, working unit of the University of Camerino, project leader prof. E. Turco. This research investigated the relationship between Atlantic plate kinematics and western Tethys tectonic evolution;
- 2008-2009: Participation to the processing of marine magnetic data of cruise RS05, Red Sea, R/V URANIA, ISMAR-CNR of Bologna, 2005, project leader Marco Ligi. This participation required the processing of raw marine magnetic data and the subsequent analysis of magnetic anomalies and their tectonic interpretation for the formation of the Thetis Deep basin, Red Sea;
- 2008-2011: 3-D modelling of the western Mediterranean subduction zones. Project leader was A. Schettino. This research project has the objective to reconstruct the 3-D geometry of subducted slabs since the late Cretaceous and to produce a set of 3-D plate reconstructions of the western Mediterranean region;
- 2009-2011: Design and implementation of Magan, an advanced software tool for the forward modelling of marine magnetic anomalies;
- 2009-2011: Central Atlantic plate kinematics. Project leader is A. Schettino. This project has the objective of revising the fit of Pangaea and the model of plate motions in the central Atlantic region since the late Triassic;
- 2009-2011: 3-D geometry of subduction zones and dynamics of back-arc extension. Project leader is A. Schettino. This project had the objective of determining the relationship between the local curvature of a trench zone and the state of lateral strain of the subducting slab;
- 2009-2011: Participation to the MIUR-COFIN 2008YWPCWB “Kinematic relation between Tyrrhenian extension and evolution of Apennine arcs”, working unit of the University of Camerino, project leader prof. E. Turco. This research has the objective to build a new plate kinematics model for the opening of the Tyrrhenian basin and the formation of the Apennine mountain belt
- Linneo, a software package for the production of electronic paleontological atlases in Windows 3.x (1996);
- P.C.M.E., a software package for the production and the visualization of plate tectonic and paleogeographic maps
in Windows NT 4.0/2000 (1996-2002).
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,
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,
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
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
Date of Birth: February 25, 1956
Place of Birth: Giffoni Valle Piana, Salerno, Italy
Marital Status: Married
Best viewed at resolution 1024 ´
In case of problems please contact the Webmaster