Mary Tobin

Reports from the Field

CAT/SCAN: Calabria-Apennine-Tyrrhenian / Subduction-Collision-Accretion Network
A Joint American-Italian Project to Monitor Earthquakes on the Most Active Seismic Belt in Italy

The Italian peninsula across the Mediterranean Sea is part of the tectonic plate boundary - the accommodation zone -- between the Eurasian and the African plates, which continue to move closer to each other. This motion controls the long-term evolution of the boundary, but recent geologic changes suggest a more rapid tectonic event superimposed on the slow motion of the big plates and localized to the Apennine arc. This signature event of the Italian peninsula is most dramatically manifested in the current deformation along the Calabrian portion of the arc and is the main focus of this project.

Researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in conjunction with researchers from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, are working to deploy 50 portable digital broadband seismographs throughout southern Italy. These instruments will record both global and regional earthquakes for 18 months. Researchers are also working to deploy an additional 10 digital broad-band ocean-bottom seismometers (OBS) offshore for a period of 12 months. Researchers will use signals from distant earthquakes to develop a catscan, or a three dimensional image, of the Earth's crust and mantle beneath the Italian Peninsula of the earth. read more background information on project

In a limestone cave off a path wending from a convent, Alberto Frepoli, in yellow, discussed the work to do with Chad Holmes, a graduate student at the Earth & Environmental Sciences department. In addition to the data collection from a seismograph, researchers spent time readjusting the solar panel to capture more sunlight; replacing the foam box currently used for thermal insulation with a foam-lined plastic flower pot; and clearing "a somewhat precarious pile of debris" that had settled on a slope above the sensor.
Report 5: Working in the Cave (read report 1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
by Chad Holmes, Graduate Student at the Earth & Environmental Sciences

Winter in southern Italy offers a beauty not often noted by typical tourist guides. Early morning fog settling in the countryside, where tiny movements in the distance mark the passing of a herd of goats; puffs of breath punctuating the air as we walk along winding roads lined with buildings constructed before our fathers' fathers; the pleasure of sipping on a cup of thick hot chocolate with the consistency of Hershey's Syrup after a long, chilly day spent in the field — these are just some of the experiences that proved as much a surprise as the seemingly endless hospitality extended our way in our recent travels.

And in a country where the logic of straight roads and consistent, clear street signs remains a challenge for future generations to tackle, frequently the bulk of the day would be spent in travel. The INGV van in conjunction with the Fiat Uno driven by Salvatore, our driver/interpreter from Grottaminarda, allowed for the creation of two independent field groups over the period of a week and a half. With Alberto Frepoli at the wheel of the INGV vehicle, Bob Greschke and I were treated to an unrivaled source of historic knowledge regarding the local castles, exposed Roman roads, and invasions during times past. We also discovered the high-elevation town of Moliverno, where our information led us to a potential new site in the Municipal building. Unfortunately, despite the advantages of a level cement floor supposedly laid atop coherent bedrock, the central courtyard afforded too small a window of clear sky to establish a strong GPS satellite lock. The interest among the town officials obviously ran high given the attention we received at such a late hour; at half past one, all of the school children had already left for home to enjoy lunch with the family, and most businesses displayed closed signs in the windows. Nevertheless, other potential sites offered for our consideration included a separate Municipal room, an adjacent building occasionally used for meeting space by the community, a local grade school (equipped with exuberant, if not just plain noisy youngsters whose eyes grew wide at the site of real, live Americans), and an abandoned school centrally located in the town. The help was greatly appreciated, but no one site stood out as a winner. After collecting contact information for future visits, we hit the road just in time to witness a herd of sheep crossing the main road into town. Sandwiches of fresh proscuitto and mozzarella proved tangible reward for our time that morning.

Polla, (pronounced Poll-la, not Pola), houses a beautiful old convent along a steep mountainside overlooking the main town. Driving up in early evening, we were greeted by a scenic view to the left, two somewhat intimidating large wooden doors leading straight in, and the benevolent gaze of the Virgin Mother beautifully sculpted and lit with blue flashing lights to our immediate right. After paging our host, Padre Ippolitto, (with a New York style front door buzzer) we were led through the large doors into a small hall, through a door bolted by two wooden bars, and into a central courtyard where gorgeous faded paintings depicting the men of the sanctuary's history surround an ancient stone well. Passing through a second hall, we entered the rear garden and came across "Oro," a German Shepherd whose instincts to lick the hands of strangers seem at odds with his official position as guard dog. A well-maintained garden path tracing the one side of an enclosed soccer field (empty, alas...though the mental image of nuns slide-tackling one another unwittingly came to mind) abruptly ended with several benches forming a peaceful sitting area on the edge of a cliff. Walking through a latchless gate, we followed a narrow cliffside path to the obscured opening of a large limestone cave. Alberto and I were greeted by the sudden whoosh of wings as a resident owl was startled from his roost by our arrival. The visit was merely a data-collection service call, with the added duties of readjusting the solar panel to capture more sunlight, replacing the foam box currently used for thermal insulation with a foam-lined plastic flower pot, and clearing a somewhat precarious pile of debris settled on a slope above the sensor. Among the rocks were found the bones of some unfortunate creature, long past in body, but perhaps not in spirit. Before leaving, Bob arranged the remains of our new station guardian atop the flower pot housing the sensor - a dire warning to any casual spelunkers considering a playful bout of seismometer vandalism in passing.

The day ended with a long drive back to Grottaminarda, with visions of vino rosso, a two course dinner, and a warm bed awaiting at La Carina warming our chilled hearts. As long-term residents of this small hotel in town, we've become adopted members of the family who operates both the inn and the downstairs restaurant. It comes as no surprise then that our departure at the end of the month was promptly met with talk among all of a quick return. Perhaps there truly is a reason why "ciao" can translate as both goodbye and hello.

Stations Successfully Established to Date


RED triangles = installed stations.
YELLOW triangles = stations not yet deployed.
GREEN triangles = existing permanent Italian broadband stations.
WHITE INVERTED triangles = OBSs (Ocean Bottom Seismometers) to be deployed from a ship in June.

Location Station Name Latitude (N) Longitude (E)
Grottaminarda GROM 41.07273 15.05993
Sant'Andrea di Conza SACO 40.84334 15.37066
Minervino SX11 41.06107 16.19686
Pietragalla SX17 40.73606 15.84757
Venosa VENO 40.96443 15.82340
San Giovanni a Piro SGIO 40.04098 15.45745
Cocozzello (Cosenza) CO22 39.49259 16.30505
Capaccio Vecchio CAVE 40.45000 15.00540
San Marco la Catola SMLC 41.51685 15.0076
Montella MONT 40.83333 15.03333
Castel del monte CRB 41.05000 16.25000
Craco CRAC 40.38333 16.43333
Moccone MC2 39.34310 16.42497
Tricarico TRIC 40.61667 16.15000
Silvana Mansio SILV 39.29773 16.52368
Savelli SAVE 39.31181 16.78412
Campana CAMP 39.40778 16.83036
Castellaneta ILCA 40.61755 16.87718
Altamonte ALTA 39.68274 16.13013
Polla POLA 40.51038 15.48791
Rocca Cilento RCCL 40.29560 15.05512
Piaggine PIAG 40.34626 15.37719
Picerno PICE 40.62909 15.66850

This joint project involves researchers from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO): Michael Steckler, Leonardo Seeber, Arthur Lerner-Lam, and Maya Tolstoy; researchers from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV): Alessandro Amato, Gianni B. Cimini, Claudio Chiarabba, Marco Cattaneo, and President Enzo Boschi; and researchers from the Universita di Cosenza, including Professor Ignazio Guerra. Support provided by the Continental Dynamics Program of the US National Science Foundation. Additional support provided by the NSF EAR Instrumentation and Facilities program through IRIS, and the OCE MG&G program through the OBS deployments and support of the OBSIP facility.

Additional collaborators include: Protezione Civile (government agency and local volunteer networks); Comuni (Town governments); Grottaminarda; Sant'Andrea di Conza; Montella (Avellino); Venosa (Foggia); San Giovanni a Piro; Craco (Matera).

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