Muography of 1949 fault in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain

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Seigo Miyamoto
José Barrancos
Cristiano Bozza
Lucia Consiglio
Chiara De Sio
Pedro Hernández
Ryuichi Nishiyama
Germán Padilla
Eleazar Padrón
Chiara Sirignano
Simona Maria Stellacci
Hiroyuki K.M. Tanaka
Valeri Tioukov


Muography (muon radiography) is a new geophysical technique that allows investigation of inner structures of an edifice with a very detailed spatial resolution. It has been recently used for several volcanoes and different geoscientific targets. In 2011 Tanaka et al. succeeded to find hidden ancient seismic faults. In 1949 there was a volcanic activity of the Cumbre Vieja, La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain and a 1km long fault suddenly appeared during the active period. The fault might be the sign of a large scale land collapse. In order to get additional information, investigations by several geophysical exploration techniques are needed. We consider that muography can be applied to study the shallow part of the fault and it can clarify some important parameters: the bulk density, the width of the low density zone, and the depth. Previous investigations allowed detecting two ancient seismic faults that have 20m-wide mechanically fractured zone consisting of highly damaged rocks. The 1949 fault might be the result of large scale land slide and the slide length might be just a few meter. Therefore the expected width of the fault is only a few meter. In order to detect such narrow fault, the muon detector should have as high spatial resolution as possible. In addition, it is difficult to get continuous power supply near the fault. Nuclear emulsions are a kind of photographic films that have high sensitivity for high energy charged particles. They also have high spatial resolution for high energy muon paths and do not need any power supply to be operated. We placed an emulsion detector having 0.19 m2 effective area near the 1949 fault. The exposure started on January 2014 and lasted 106 days. All the emulsion films were developed and they are under analysis. We also estimated the expected performance of this test exposure. Assuming a very simple model, we evaluated the detectable region as a function of the low density zone width and of the depth from the ground surface as well.

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Miyamoto S, Barrancos J, Bozza C, Consiglio L, De Sio C, Hernández P, Nishiyama R, Padilla G, Padrón E, Sirignano C, Stellacci SM, Tanaka HK, Tioukov V. Muography of 1949 fault in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. Ann. Geophys. [Internet]. 2017Feb.14 [cited 2021Oct.25];60(1):S0110. Available from:

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