Imaging overpressurised fracture networks and geological barriers hindering fluid migrations across a slow-deformation seismic gap

Sci Rep. 2023 Nov 11;13(1):19680. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-47104-w.


There is an ongoing debate on the processes producing background seismicity and deformation transients across seismic gaps, i.e., regions that lack historical large-magnitude earthquakes. Essential missing elements are geophysical images that resolve sources of geophysical unrest. Here, we apply seismic scattering and absorption tomography to data recorded during the 2010-2014 seismic sequence within the Mt. Pollino seismic gap region (Southern Italy). The tomographic models show high sensitivity to fluid content, deformed fractured structures, and impermeable layers stopping fluid migrations. They bridge the gaps between geological and geophysical models and provide a highly-resolved image of the source of seismic and deformation unrest within this seismic gap. High absorption topping the western Pollino seismic volume appears pressurized between the low-Vp/Vs and low-scattering San Donato metamorphic core and a deep basement. Absorbing fluids can only migrate laterally to the east, blocked in the west and southwest by deep low-scattering barriers associated with east-dipping faults and to the north and southeast by saturated overpressurized low-scattering basins. This eastern migration is only partially effective, producing seismicity across the lowest boundary of the high-absorption volume. Our results showcase the potential of seismic scattering and absorption when imaging structures causing geophysical unrest processes across fault networks.