Articles | Volume 3, issue 1/2
30 Apr 2003
30 Apr 2003

Observations and modelling of soil slip-debris flow initiation processes in pyroclastic deposits: the Sarno 1998 event

G. B. Crosta and P. Dal Negro

Abstract. Pyroclastic soils mantling a wide area of the Campanian Apennines are subjected to recurrent instability phenomena. This study analyses the 5 and 6 May 1998 event which affected the Pizzo d’Alvano (Campania, southern Italy). More than 400 slides affecting shallow pyroclastic deposits were triggered by intense and prolonged but not extreme rainfall. Landslides affected the pyroclastic deposits that cover the steep calcareous ridges and are soil slip-debris flows and rapid mudflows. About 30 main channels were deeply scoured by flows which reached the alluvial fans depositing up to 400 000 m3 of material in the piedmont areas. About 75% of the landslides are associated with morphological discontinuities such as limestone cliffs and roads. The sliding surface is located within the pyroclastic cover, generally at the base of a pumice layer. Geotechnical characterisation of pyroclastic deposits has been accomplished by laboratory and in situ tests. Numerical modelling of seepage processes and stability analyses have been run on four simplified models representing different settings observed at the source areas. Seepage modelling showed the formation of pore pressure pulses in pumice layers and the localised increase of pore pressure in correspondence of stratigraphic discontinuities as response to the rainfall event registered between 28 April and 5 May. Numerical modelling provided pore pressure values for stability analyses and pointed out critical conditions where stratigraphic or morphological discontinuities occur. This study excludes the need of a groundwater flow from the underlying bedrock toward the pyroclastic cover for instabilities to occur.