The model has an areal extent of about 225 x 125 m and shows a series of mud volcanic centres on the North-East side of the Nirano Mud Volcanic field. This site is incorporated in a Regional Natural Park (Riserva Naturale delle Salse di Nirano, extending for 209 ha in the lower sector of the Appennino Modenese, approximately 20 km SW of Modena (Italy); the area is located upon an anticline structure, with an NW–SE axis, associated with the Pede-Apennines thrust.
Three major mud volcanoes can be observed in the model, as well as a series of minor centers. The bases of the cones are subcircular in shape, with an average radius of 20 m and may reach 3 m above the sourrounding ground. On the flanks of one of the major cones, it is worth noting a series of secondary eruptive centers; this means that underneath this main volcano, there is a network of fractures (allowing mud to rise to the surface), which is more complex than the other mud volcanoes in the image. These, in fact, have been characterised by a single summit eruptive vent.
Mud volcanoes are surface expressions of focused fluid flow inside hydrocarbon-bearing sedimentary basins. They are a specific category of hydrocarbon seeps, hydraulically connected to petroleum-rich sediments and accumulations, which may or may not have commercial importance. Mud volcanism represents one of the most interesting processes on Earth, not least for its implications in terms of energy resource exploration, seismicity, hazard and atmospheric budget of greenhouse gases. It can indicate subsurface petroleum accumulations, may react to or reveal precursor signals of earthquakes, pose hazard to people and industrial facilities, and release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

Credits: Model provided by Luca Fallati in agreement with Riserva Naturale Salse di Nirano ( Model description by Luca Fallati and Alessandro Tibaldi.


  • Matteo Lupi, Barbara Suski Ricci, Johannes Kenkel, Tullio Ricci, Florian Fuchs, Stephen A. Miller, Andreas Kemna, Subsurface fluid distribution and possible seismic precursory signal at the Salse di Nirano mud volcanic field, Italy, Geophysical Journal International, Volume 204, Issue 2, 1 February 2016, Pages 907–917.
  • Mazzini, A., & Etiope, G. (2017). Mud volcanism: an updated review. Earth-Science Reviews, 168, 81-112.