Thirty years of precise gravity measurements at Mt. Vesuvius: an approach to detect underground mass movements

Giovanna Berrino, Vincenzo d’Errico, Giuseppe Ricciardi


Since 1982, high precision gravity measurements have been routinely carried out on Mt. Vesuvius. The gravity network consists of selected sites most of them coinciding with, or very close to, leveling benchmarks to remove the effect of the elevation changes from gravity variations. The reference station is located in Napoli, outside the volcanic area. Since 1986, absolute gravity measurements have been periodically made on a station on Mt. Vesuvius, close to a permanent gravity station established in 1987, and at the reference in Napoli. The results of the gravity measurements since 1982 are presented and discussed. Moderate gravity changes on short-time were generally observed. On long-term significant gravity changes occurred and the overall fields displayed well defined patterns. Several periods of evolution may be recognized. Gravity changes revealed by the relative surveys have been confirmed by repeated absolute measurements, which also confirmed the long-term stability of the reference site. The gravity changes over the recognized periods appear correlated with the seismic crises and with changes of the tidal parameters obtained by continuous measurements. The absence of significant ground deformation implies masses redistribution, essentially density changes without significant volume changes, such as fluids migration at the depth of the seismic foci, i.e. at a few kilometers. The fluid migration may occur through pre-existing geological structures, as also suggested by hydrological studies, and/or through new fractures generated by seismic activity. This interpretation is supported by the analyses of the spatial gravity changes overlapping the most significant and recent seismic crises.


Gravity methods; Gravity variations; Geodesy; Measurements and monitoring; Volcano monitoring

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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X