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We conducted geophysical–geochemical measurements on a ∼ 2 km N–S profile cutting across the Pernicana Fault, one of the most active tectonic features on the NE flank of Mt. Etna. The profile passes from the unstable E flank of the volcano (to the south) to the stable N flank and significant fluctuations in electrical resistivity, self-potential, and soil gas emissions (CO2, Rn and Th) are found. The detailed multidisciplinary analysis reveals a complex interplay between the structural setting, uprising hydrothermal fluids, meteoric fluids percolating downwards, ground permeability, and surface topography. In particular, the recovered fluid circulation model highlights that the southern sector is heavily fractured and faulted, allowing the formation of convective hydrothermal cells. Although the existence of a hydrothermal system in a volcanic area does not surprise, these results have great implications in terms of flank dynamics at Mt. Etna. Indeed, the hydrothermal activity, interacting with the Pernicana Fault activity, could enhance the flank instability. Our approach should be further extended along the full extent of the boundary between the stable and unstable sectors of Etna for a better evaluation of the geohazard in this active tectonic area.
Journal: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research - Volume 193, Issues 1–2, 1 June 2010, Pages 137–142