pp 1–15 | Cite as

Geological and geophysical investigations to analyse a lateral spreading phenomenon: the case study of Torrioni di Rialba, northern Italy

  • Diego ArosioEmail author
  • Laura Longoni
  • Monica Papini
  • Grégory Bièvre
  • Luigi Zanzi
Original Paper


We combined geological, geomechanical, geophysical and remote sensing investigations, including persistent scatterer interferometry and bathymetry, to study a slope where four conglomerate towers laterally spread over a shale layer. Electrical resistivity tomography surveys confirm a shale layer that underlies the rock towers with an attitude parallel to the slope. Field mapping reveals that the stability of the rock towers is threatened by weakly cemented conglomerate layers, large eroded zones and karstic weathering due to water circulation. We deem that the most probable failure mechanism would be the toppling of the southernmost tower, promoted primarily by the weak conglomerate layer in its lower section. The plastic shale layer underneath the rock cliff is very likely to promote lateral spreading that may have triggered the toppling of an additional former rock pillar, whose rock blocks were found in the lake during a bathymetric survey. Close- and long-range remote sensing of displacements provide no results that could be interpreted with confidence. Seismic noise recording sessions with 3C low-frequency velocimeters suggest that the dynamic conditions of the towers do not show appreciable variations across the recording sessions, especially considering the two rock towers featuring the most interesting spectral characteristics. However, both the resonance frequencies and the preferential oscillation directions estimated from the seismic noise datasets are consistent with the analytical relationships and will support the design of an effective monitoring strategy.


Lateral spreading Seismic noise Electrical resistivity tomography Shale Rock toppling 



We would like to thank Davide Brambilla, Vladislav Ivov Ivanov, Marco Taruselli, Stefano Munda and the students at Politecnico di Milano for taking part to the field surveys. The authors are grateful to Matteo Colombo for the ultrasonic velocity tests and discussion on vibration modes. We also acknowledge Giuseppe Ciccarese and Marco Mulas at Università di Modena and Reggio Emilia for the help with the topographic and persistent scatterer datasets. The authors gratefully acknowledge the managing editor Peter Bobrowsky, David Huntley at the Geological Survey of Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia, who reviewed and edited the manuscript thoroughly, and an anonymous reviewer for their comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Geological SciencesUniversità degli Studi di Modena e Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringPolitecnico di MilanoMilanItaly
  3. 3.ISTerreUniv. Grenoble Alpes, Univ. Savoie Mont Blanc, CNRS, IRD, IFSTTARGrenobleFrance

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