Land subsidence along the Ionian coast of SE Sicily (Italy), detection and analysis via Small Baseline Subset (SBAS) multitemporal differential SAR interferometry

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Abstract

The paper presents the results of a multi-temporal, differential interferometric synthetic aperture radar (DInSAR) analysis aiming to identify active surface deformation phenomena in south-eastern Sicily. The study area has been chosen because of its strong seismicity, high concentration of industrial and agricultural activities, and high density of people living in the coastal area. Furthermore, the morphology, lithology and climatic features of this sector of the Hyblean foreland are suitable for an interferometric analysis, providing a high coherence over the area. The Small BAseline Subset (SBAS) multitemporal DInSAR technique was used to calculate mean ground velocity maps and displacement time series from a large data set of European Remote Sensing Satellites (ERS 1–2) images spanning the time period 1992–2000. The reliability of the DInSAR results was tested calculating the EastSAR and UpSAR values over two permanent global positioning system (GPS) stations in the area, and comparing them with the EastGPS and UpGPS values. The residuals between GPS and DInSAR velocities were 1 and 0.6 mm/yr for the Up and East components, respectively. Four main subsiding areas, previously undetected, have been identified, corresponding with the towns of Augusta, Siracusa, Priolo, and Villasmundo. The observed deformation phenomena are located within coastal structural basins, filled with Pleistocene and Holocence deposits, except the Villasmundo land subsidence, which is located on the Hyblean plateau. The measured deformation rates reach values up to −18 mm/yr in Augusta, –6 mm/yr in Siracusa, –5 mm/yr in Villasmundo and −4.5 mm/yr in Priolo. The examination of velocity profiles, time series, and geological data allows us to relate all the detected deformation patterns primarily to groundwater over-exploitation. A multi-dimensional interpolation with kriging was performed to obtain a field subsidence map. A first-order elastic deformation model was used to simulate the peculiar features of the Villasmundo subsidence. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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