Articles | Volume 3, issue 3/4
31 Aug 2003
31 Aug 2003

Thermal anomalies and fluid geochemistry framework in occurrence of the 2000-2001 Nizza Monferrate seismic sequence (northern Italy): Episodic changes in the fault zone heat flow or chemical mixing phenomena?

F. Quattrocchi, R. Favara, G. Capasso, L. Pizzino, R. Bencini, D. Cinti, G. Galli, F. Grassa, S. Francofonte, and G. Volpicielli

Abstract. The paper discusses the correlation between the heating of shallow groundwater over a 10 × 20 km wide area close to the town of Nizza Monferrato (Piemonte Region, Northern Italy) and the concomitant local seismic sequences during the period August 2000 – July 2001. The first seismic sequence started on 21 August 2000 with a Ml = 5.2 earthquake. Within few hours, the local authorities received calls alerting that the groundwater temperature rose from 10 to 30°C in many shallow wells. Our geochemical experimental data and the geological-seismotectonic framework do not allow the hypothesis of simple fluid mixing between the thermal reservoir of Acqui Terme and the Nizza-Monferrato shallow groundwater to explain the observed thermal anomalies. On the other hand, we invoke more complex processes such as frictional heating, mechano-chemistry, fault-valve mechanism, adiabatic decompression and hydrogeologically driven heat flow i.e., thermal effects due to variations of basin-scale permeability field. All these processes are able to transmit heat to the surface and to generate a transient incremental heat flow better than the mass transfer occurring typically when fluids from different reservoirs mix.