Engineering geological zonation of a complex landslide system through seismic ambient noise measurements at the Selmun Promontory (Malta)

Roberto Iannucci, Salvatore Martino, Antonella Paciello, Sebastiano D'Amico, Pauline Galea

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6 Citations (Scopus)


The cliff slope of the Selmun Promontory, located in the Northern part of the island of Malta (Central Mediterranean Sea) close to the coastline, is involved in a landslide process as exhibited by the large block-size talus at its bottom. The landslide process is related to the geological succession outcropping in the Selmun area, characterized by the overposition of a grained limestone on a plastic clay, that induces a lateral spreading phenomenon associated with detachment and collapse of different-size rock blocks. The landslide process shapes a typical landscape with a stable plateau of stiff limestone bordered by an unstable cliff slope. The ruins of Ghajn Hadid Tower, the first of the 13 watchtowers built in 1658 by the Grand Master Martin de Redin, stand out on the Selmun Promontory. The conservation of this important heritage site, already damaged by an earthquake which struck the Maltese Archipelago on 1856 October 12, is currently threatened by a progressive retreat of the landslide process towards the inland plateau area. During 2015 and 2016, field surveys were carried out to derive an engineering geological model of the Selmun Promontory. After a highresolution geomechanical survey, the spatial distribution of the joints affecting the limestone was obtained. At the same time, 116 single-station noise measurements were carried out to cover inland and edge of the limestone plateau as well as the slope where the clays outcrop. The obtained 1-hour time histories were analysed through the horizontal to vertical spectral ratio technique, as well as polarization and ellipticity analysis of particle motion to define the local seismic response in zones having different stability conditions, that is, related to the presence of unstable rock blocks characterized by different vibrational modes. The results obtained demonstrate the suitability of passive seismic geophysical techniques for zoning landslide hazard in case of rock slopes and prove the relevance of anisotropies in conditioning the polarization of vibrational modes for dislodged rock masses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1146 - 1161
Number of pages16
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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