pp 1–15 | Cite as

Shallow landslide generation at La Fossa cone, Vulcano island (Italy): a multidisciplinary perspective

  • P. MadoniaEmail author
  • M. Cangemi
  • L. Olivares
  • Y. Oliveri
  • S. Speziale
  • P. Tommasi
Original Paper


Several shallow landslides occurred at La Fossa cone (Vulcano Island, Aeolian Archipelago, Italy) in the last 30 years, during both unrests and periods of quiet volcanic activity. The main event occurred in 1988, during a volcanic unrest, when a landslide collapsed into the sea from the NE flank of La Fossa cone, producing a small tsunami. Hydrothermal activity has been suggested as a potential trigger for landslide generation in this area. However, no specific investigations were carried out to test this hypothesis. With the aim of filling this gap, we studied the mineralogy and hydraulic conductivity of La Fossa cone deposits, the relationships between shallow hydrothermal circulation and rainfall dynamics and their role in triggering slope failures. We also measured rainfall rate, volumetric soil moisture content and soil suction at two automated stations installed in areas with and without active hydrothermal circulation. We found that hydrothermally altered low-conductivity materials show higher background water contents and lower soil suctions than pristine deposits, and their water content is modulated by impulsive increments following rainfalls. This behaviour is due to the combination of lower permeability and direct condensation of hydrothermal vapour. We conclude that shallow hydrothermal circulation produces conditions for slope failures following transients in soil moisture content caused by rainfall infiltration. These considerations allow to identify the areas immediately NW and SE of the 1988 landslide as the most prone to future mass movements.


Hydraulic conductivity Hydrothermal alteration Shallow landslides Rainfall Volcano island 



This work was carried out with the financial support of the Italian INGV-DPC projects GNV-Pr.15 years 2000–2003, V3 years 2005–20006 and 2012–2015, and of the postgraduate specialisation course “La ricerca geofisica e vulcanologica per il monitoraggio dei rischi naturali e ambientali e per la tutela e la fruizione delle risorse del territorio (VULCAMED)” (PON a3_00278 – Quadro Strategico Nazionale 2007-2013 per le Regioni della Convergenza).


  1. Agnesi V, Camarda M, Conoscenti C, Di Maggio C, Diliberto IS, Madonia P, Rotigliano E (2005) A multidisciplinary approach to the evaluation of the mechanism that triggered the Cerda landslide (Sicily, Italy). Geomorphology 65:101–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aiuppa A, Inguaggiato S, McGonigle AJS, O’Dwyer M, Oppenheimer C, Padgett MJ, Rouwet D, Valenza M (2005) H2S fluxes from Mt. Etna, Stromboli, and Vulcano (Italy) and implications for the sulfur budget at volcanoes. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 69(7):1861–1871CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. De Astis G, Dellino P, La Volpe L, Lucchi F, Tranne CA (2006), Geological map of the island of Vulcano (Aeolian Islands), scale 1:10,000. Printed by Litografia Artistica Cartografica, Firenze, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  4. Calaforra JM, Pulido-Bosch A (1999) Genesis and evolution of gypsum tumuli. Earth Surf Process Landf 24:919–930. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Capaccioni B, Coniglio S (1995) Varicolored and vesiculated tuff from La Fossa volcano, Vulcano Island (Aeolian Archipelago, Italy): evidence of syndepositional alteration processes. Bull Volcanol 57:61–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Capasso G, Dongarrà G, Hauser S, Favara R, Valenza M (1992) Isotope composition of rain water, well water and fumarole steam on the island of Vulcano, and their implications for volcanic surveillance. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 49:147–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Capra L, Lugo-Hubpa J, Borselli L (2003) Mass movements in tropical volcanic terrains: the case of Teziutlán (México). Eng Geol 69:359–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chigira M (2002) Geologic factors contributing to landslide generation in a pyroclastic area: August 1998 Nishigo Village, Japan. Geomorphology 46:117–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chiodini G, Cioni R, Marini L, Panichi C (1995) Origin of the fumarolic fluids of Vulcano Island, Italy and implications for volcanic surveillance. Bull Volcanol 57:99–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Craig H (1961) Standard for reporting concentrations of deuterium and oxygen-18 in natural waters. Science 133(3467):1833–1834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Damiano E, Olivares L (2010) The role of infiltration processes in steep slope stability of pyroclastic granular soils: laboratory and numerical investigation. Nat Hazards 52:329–350. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Elsworth D, Day SJ (1999) Flank collapse triggered by intrusion: the Canarian and Cape Verde archipelagoes. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 94:323–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ferrarese F, Macaluso T, Madonia G, Palmeri A, Sauro U (2002) Solution and recrystallization processes and associated landforms in gypsum outcrops of Sicily. Geomorphology 49(1–2):25–43Google Scholar
  14. Gardner WR (1958) Some steady-state solutions of the undersaturated moisture flow equation with application to evaporation from a water table. Soil Sci 85(4):228–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Iverson MR (2000) Landslide triggering by rain infiltration. Water Resour Res 36(7):1897–1910 Soil Sci Soc Am Pro 32:760765CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kunze RJ, Mehara G, Graham K (1968) Factors important in the calculation of hydraulic conductivityGoogle Scholar
  17. del Potro R, Hürlimann M (2009) The decrease in shear strength of volcanic materials with argillic hydrothermal alteration, insights from the summit region of Teide stratovolcano, Tenerife. Eng Geol 104:135–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liotta M, Brusca L, Grassa F, Inguaggiato S, Longo M, Madonia P (2006) Geochemistry of rainfall at Stromboli volcano (Aeolian Islands): isotopic composition and plume–rain interaction. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 7.
  19. Madonia P, Cusano P, Diliberto IS, Cangemi M (2013) Thermal anomalies in fumaroles at Vulcano island (Italy) and their relationship with seismic activity. Phys Chem Earth, Parts A/B/C 63:160–169Google Scholar
  20. Madonia P, Cangemi M, Costa M, Madonia I (2016) Mapping fumarolic fields in volcanic areas: a methodological approach based on the case study of La Fossa cone, Vulcano island (Italy). J Volcanol Geotherm Res 324:1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Moon V (2016) Halloysite behaving badly: geomechanics and slope behaviour of halloysite-rich soils. Clay Miner 51:517–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pagano L, Picarelli L, Rianna G, Urciuoli G (2010) A simple numerical procedure for timely prediction of precipitation-induced landslides in unsaturated pyroclastics soils. Landslides 7:273–289. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Paonita A, Federico C, Bonfanti P, Capasso G, Inguaggiato S, Italiano F, Madonia P, Pecoraino G, Sortino F (2013) The episodic and abrupt geochemical changes at La Fossa fumaroles (Vulcano Island, Italy) and related constraints on the dynamics, structure, and compositions of the magmatic system. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 120:158–178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rasà R, Villari L (1991) Geomorphological and morpho-structural investigations on the Fossa cone (Vulcano, Aeolian Islands): a first outline. Acta Vulcanol 1:127–133Google Scholar
  25. Reid ME, Sisson TW, Brien DL (2001) Volcano collapse promoted by hydrothermal alteration and edifice shape, Mount Rainier, Washington. Geology 29(9):779–782CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Romagnoli C, Casalbore D, Chiocci FL (2012) La Fossa caldera breaching and submarine erosion (Vulcano island, Italy). Mar Geol 303–306:87–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schöpa A, Pantaleo M, Walter TR (2011) Scale-dependent location of hydrothermal vents: stress field models and infrared field observations on the Fossa cone, Vulcano Island, Italy. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 203:133–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tinti S, Bortolucci E, Armigliato A (1999) Numerical simulation of the landslide-induced tsunami of 1988 on Vulcano Island, Italy. Bull Volcanol 61:21–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INGV, Sezione di PalermoPalermoItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di IngegneriaUniversità della Campania Luigi VanvitelliAversaItaly
  3. 3.Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ)PotsdamGermany
  4. 4.CNR-IGAGMonterotondoItaly

Personalised recommendations