Articles | Volume 11, issue 5
Research article
24 May 2011
Research article |  | 24 May 2011

Geomorphological and geochemical characterization of the 11 August 2008 mud volcano eruption at S. Barbara village (Sicily, Italy) and its possible relationship with seismic activity

P. Madonia, F. Grassa, M. Cangemi, and C. Musumeci

Abstract. On 11 August 2008 a paroxysmal eruption occurred at Santa Barbara mud volcano (MV), located close to Caltanissetta, one of the most densely populated cities of Sicily (Italy). An associated minor event took place on August 2009. Both the events caused severe damage to civil infrastructures located within a range of about 2 km from the eruptive vent. Geomorphological, geochemical, and seismological investigations were carried out for framing the events in the appropriate geodynamic context. Geomorphological surveys recognized, in the immediate surrounding of the main emission point, two different families of processes and landforms: (i) ground deformations and (ii) changes in morphology and number of the fluid emitting vents. These processes were associated to a wider network of fractures, seemingly generated by the shock wave produced by the gas blast that occurred at the main paroxysm. Geochemical characterization allowed an estimation of the source of the fluids, or at least their last standing, at about 3 km depth. Finally, the close time relationships observed between anomalous increments of seismic activity and the two main paroxysmal events accounted for a possible common trigger for both the phenomena, even with different timing due to the very different initial conditions and characteristics of the two processes, i.e. seismogenesis and gas overloading.