InSAR-Based Detection of Subsidence Affecting Infrastructures and Urban Areas in Emilia-Romagna Region (Italy)

Cianflone, Giuseppe;

The study of deformation signals associated with seismicity in alluvial plain areas is a challenging topic that, however, is increasingly studied thanks to the great aid given by remote sensing techniques that exploit Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data. This study focuses on the determination of the deformation field within the Emilia-Romagna Region (northern Italy), in the area comprising Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Parma cities. SAR data acquired along both orbits during the Sentinel-1 and Cosmo-SkyMed satellite missions were processed with the Small Baseline Subset interferometric technique from June 2012, after the serious seismic swarm of May 2012, to January 2022, just before the two earthquakes occurred in February 2022. The results, validated with Global Navigation Satellite System measurements, do not highlight displacements correlated with the seismicity but, thanks to their high spatial resolution, it was possible to discriminate areas affected by noticeable subsidence phenomena: (i) the highly industrialized areas located north of the municipalities of Reggio Emilia and Modena cities and (ii) a sector of the high-speed railway sited north of the Reggio Emilia city centre, close to the Reggio Emilia AV Mediopadana station. Here we show that, at least since 2012, the latter area is affected by subsidence which can be related to the secondary consolidation process of the fine soils loaded by the railway embankment. The piezometric level analysis also suggests that the lowering of the groundwater table could accelerate the subsidence rate, affecting the stability of infrastructures in highly populated and industrialized areas.
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