Submarine Slope Failures Along the Northern Sicilian Continental Margin (Southern Tyrrhenian Sea) and Possible Implications for Geo-Hazard

  • Attilio SulliEmail author
  • Mauro Agate
  • Claudio Lo Iacono
  • Valeria Lo Presti
  • Valentina Pennino
  • Sabrina Polizzi


In this study we present an overview of the mass wasting features (e.g.: submarine canyons, landslides, debris flows) and downslope movements that have contributed to shape the northern Sicily continental margin (southern Tyrrhenian Sea) since the Late Quaternary. The study is based on Multibeam data and high-resolution seismic reflection profiles, which allowed to define the morphology and the stratigraphy of the mass transport deposits and related failures of the area. We distinguished slope failures related to different mechanisms. In the Palermo Gulf and in the eastern sector of the northern Sicily margin tectonic activity, fluid escaping and oversteepening triggered downslope turbiditic currents and concurrent up-slope retrogressive mass failures. In the Ustica offshore gravitational collapse of volcanic edifices is mainly linked to neotectonic activity and volcanism. These data allow us to understand geological features and processes which may represent a threat for coastal areas of the northern Sicily margin.


Slope failures Swath bathymetry Geo-hazard Southern Tyrrhenian 


  1. Agate M, Beranzoli L, Braun T, Catalano R, Favali P, Frugoni F, Pepe F, Smriglio G, Sulli A (2000) The 1998 offshore NW Sicily earthquakes in the tectonic framework of the southern border of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Mem Soc Geol It 55:103–114Google Scholar
  2. Agate M, Mancuso M, Lo Cicero G (2005) Late Quaternary sedimentary evolution of the Castellammare Gulf (North-Western Sicily offshore). Boll Soc Geol It 124:21–40Google Scholar
  3. Almagor G, Wisenam GH (1977) Analysis of submarine slumping in the continental slope of the southern coast of Israël. Mar Geotech 2:349–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baztan J, Bernè S, Olivet JL, Rabineau M, Aslanian D, Gaudin M, Rehault JP, Canals M (2005) Axial incision: the key to understand submarine canyon evolution (in the western Gulf of Lion). Mar Pet Geol 22:805–826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Billi A, Funiciello R, Minelli L, Faccenna C, Neri G, Orecchio B, Presti D (2008) On the cause of the 1908 Messina tsunami, southern Italy. Geophys Res Lett. doi: 10.1029/2008GL033251
  6. Burger RL, Fulthorpe CS, Austin JA (2003) Effects of triple junction migration and glacioeustatic cyclicity on evolution of upper slope morphologies, offshore eel river basin, northern California. Mar Geol 199:307–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Canals M, Lastras G, Urgeles R, Casamor JL, Mienert J, Cattaneo A, De Batist M, Haflidason H, Imbo Y, Laberg JS, Locat J, Long D, Longva O, Masson DG, Sultan N, Trincardi F, Bryn P (2004) Slope failure dynamics and impacts from seafloor and shallow sub-seafloor geophysical data: case studies from the COSTA project. Mar Geol 213(1–4):9–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chiocci FL, Romagnoli C, Tommasi P, Bosman A (2008) The Stromboli 2002 tsunamigenic submarine slide: Characteristics and possible failure mechanisms. J Geophys Res 113:B10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dan G, Sultan N, Savoye B (2007) The 1979 Nice harbor catastrophe revisited: trigger mechanism inferred from geotechnical measurements and numerical modelling. Mar Geo 245:40–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Driscoll NW, Weissel JK, Goff JA (2000) Potential for large-scale submarine slope failure and tsunami generation along the US mid-Atlantic coast. Geology 28:407–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Giunta G, Luzio D, Agosta F, Calò M, Di Trapani F, Giorgianni A, Oliveri E, Orioli S, Perniciaro M, Vitale M, Chiodi M, Adelfio G (2009) An integrated approach to investigate the seismotectonics of northern Sicily and southern Tyrrhenian. Tectonophysics 476:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Greene HG, Maher NM, Paull CK (2002) Physiography of the Monterey bay national marine sanctuary and implications about continental margin development. Mar Geol 181:55–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Haflidason H, Sejrup HP, Nygard A, Mienert J, Bryn P, Lien R, Forsberg CF, Berg K, Masson D (2004) The Storegga Slide: architecture, geometry and slide development. Mar Geol 213:201–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lewis KB (1971) Slumping on a continental slope inclined at 1°–4°. Sedimentology 16:97–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lo Iacono C, Sulli A, Agate M, Lo Presti V, Pepe F, Catalano R (2011) Submarine canyon morphologies in the Gulf of Palermo (Southern Tyrrhenian Sea) and possible implications for geo-hazard. Mar Geophys Res. doi: 10.1007/s11001-011-9118-0
  16. Masson DG, Canalis M, Alonso B, Urgeles R, Huhnerbach V (1998) The Canary Debris Flow: source area, morphology and failure mechanism. Sedimentology 45:411–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mazzanti P, Bozzano F (2011) Revisiting the February 6th 1783 Scilla (Calabria, Italy) landslide and tsunami by numerical simulation. Mar Geophys Res. doi: 10.1007/s11001-011-9117-1
  18. McAdoo B, Pratson G, Orange LF (2000) Submarine Landslide Geomorphology, U.S. Continental Slope. Mar Geol 169: 103–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mitchell NC (2005) Interpreting long-profiles of canyons in the USA Atlantic continental slope. Mar Geol 214:75–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mulder T, Cochonat P (1996) Classification of offshore mass movements. J Sediment Res 66:43–57Google Scholar
  21. Nelson CH, Maldonado A (1988) Factors controlling depositional patterns of Ebro turbidite systems, mediterranean sea. AAPG Bull 72:698–716Google Scholar
  22. Pepe F, Sulli A, Agate M, Di Maio D, Kok A, Lo Iacono C, Catalano R (2003) Plio-Pleistocene geological evolution of the northern Sicily continental margin (southern Tyrrhenian Sea): new insights from high resolution, multi-electrode sparker profiles. Geo Mar Lett 23:53–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pratson LF, Coakley BJ (1996) A model for the headward erosion of submarine canyons induced by downslope-eroding sediment flows. GSA Bull 108(2):225–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sedimentari B (1980) Dati geologici preliminari sul bacino di Cefalu’ (Mar Tirreno). Ateneo Parmense Acta Nat 16:3–18Google Scholar
  25. Selli R (1970) Cenni morfologici generali sul Mar Tirreno. G Geol 37:5–24Google Scholar
  26. Siebert L, Glicken H, Ui T (1987) Volcanic hazards from Bezymiannyand Bandai-type eruptions. Bull Volcanol 49:435–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Urgeles R, Canals M, Baraza J, Alonso B, Masson DG (1997) The most recent megaslides on the Canary Islands: the El Golfo Debris Avalanche and the Canary Debris Flow, west El Hierro Island. J Geophys Res 102:20305–20323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Urgeles R, Masson DG, Canals M, Watts AB, Le Bas T (1999) Recurrent giant landslides on the west flank of La Palma, Canary Islands. J Geophys Res 104:25331–25348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ward SN (2001) Landslide tsunami. J Geophys Res 106:11201–11215CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Attilio Sulli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mauro Agate
    • 1
  • Claudio Lo Iacono
    • 2
  • Valeria Lo Presti
    • 1
  • Valentina Pennino
    • 1
  • Sabrina Polizzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e del MareUniversità di PalermoPalermoItaly
  2. 2.CSIC, Unidad de Tecnología MarinaBarcelonaSpain

Personalised recommendations