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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 14 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 14 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Structural and climate drivers of the historic Masiere di Vedana rock avalanche (Belluno Dolomites, NE Italy)

Sandro Rossato1, Susan Ivy-Ochs2, Silvana Martin1, Alfio Viganò3, Christof Vockenhuber2, Manuel Rigo1, Giovanni Monegato4, Marco De Zorzi2, Nicola Surian1, Paolo Campedel3, and Paolo Mozzi1 Sandro Rossato et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, University of Padova, Via Gradenigo, 6, 35131, Padova, Italy
  • 2Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, Otto-Stern-Weg 5, ETH-Honggerberg, 8093, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 3Servizio Geologico, Provincia autonoma di Trento, Via Zambra 42, 38122, Trento, Italy
  • 4National Research Council, Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources, Padova, Italy

Abstract. The “Masiere di Vedana” rock avalanche, located in the Belluno Dolomites (NE Italy) at the foot of the Mt. Peron, is re-interpreted as Historic on the base of archaeological information and cosmogenic 36Cl exposure dates. The deposit is 9 km2 wide, has a volume of ~ 170 Mm3 correspondings to a pre-detachment rock mass of ~ 130 Mm3, and a maximum runout distance of 6 km and an H / L ratio of ~ 0.2. Differential velocities of the rock avalanche moving radially over different topography and path-material lead to the formation of specific landforms (tomas and compressional ridges). In the Mt. Peron crown the bedding is subvertical and includes carbonate lithologies from lower Jurassic (Calcari Grigi Group) to Cretaceous (Maiolica) in age. The proximal deposit is made of Calcari Grigi Group limestone, the distal deposit comprises upper Jurassic limestones (Fonzaso Formation, Rosso Ammonitico, and Maiolica), while the middle Jurassic Vajont Limestone dominates the central sector of the deposit. In the release area the bedding, the SSE-vergent frontal thrust planes, the NW-vergent backthrust planes, the NW-SE fracture planes, and the N-S Jurassic fault planes controlled the failure and enhanced the rock mass fragmentation. Cosmogenic 36Cl exposure ages, mean 1.90 ± 0.45 ka, indicate failure occurred between 340 BC and 560 AD. Although abundant Roman remains were found in sites surrounding the rock avalanche deposit, none was found within the deposit, and this is consistent with a Late Roman or early Middle Age failure. Seismic and climatic drivers are discussed. Over the last few hundred years, earthquakes up to Mw 6.3 including that at 365 AD, affected the Belluno area. Early in the first millennium, periods of climate worsening with increasing rainfall are known in the NE Alps. The combination of climate and earthquakes induced progressive long-term damage to the rock. The present Mt. Peron crown shows hundreds of meters-high rock prisms bound by backwall trenches, suggesting a potential landslide hazard for the whole mountain belt north of Belluno affected by the same structural characteristics.

Sandro Rossato et al.

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Sandro Rossato et al.

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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Rock avalanches are extremely dangerous, causing a wealth of damages worldwide. The “Masiere di Vedana” is a rock avalanche deposit (9 km2; 170 Mm3) in NE Italy. We dated back it to Late Roman-to-early Middle Age. Identified drivers are the overall structural setting, exceptional rainfall events, seismic shakings. No exceptional event is required as a trigger. When dealing with heavily deformed bedrocks, especially in inhabited areas, the occurrence of a huge event like this must be considered.
Rock avalanches are extremely dangerous, causing a wealth of damages worldwide. The “Masiere...