Geodaysit 2023

Anna Palamidessi


Analysis and prevention of historical-cultural heritage instability using satellite radar interferometry
Silvia Bianchini, Anna Palamidessi, William Frodello, Veronica Tofani

Italy, with 58 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, is the country with the highest number of UNESCO cultural heritage sites in the world. At the same time, Italy faces significant natural hazards from a geological and soil protection perspective. Particularly, archaeological sites and works of art are susceptible to geo-hydrological instability and deterioration. In order to understand instability and degradation processes it is essential to consider the extent and state of cultural heritage in the context of its geology, geomorphology, natural and urban environments. This is fundamental to decide the priorities of risks mitigation practices and protection/conservation strategies.
The monitoring of Italian cultural heritage is a fundamental activity for their long-term protection and conservation. Radar interferometric remote sensing techniques are non-invasive contactless and advanced methods capable of determining displacements and deformations affecting structures and natural slopes with millimeter accuracy. They represent powerful tools that can be profitably used for monitoring cultural heritage, architectural structures, and archaeological sites without causing any damage, and at the same time exploit several temporal time series, thanks to the available satellite constellations.
In the framework of the Extraordinary Plan for the Monitoring and Conservation of Cultural Property (Piano Straordinario di Monitoraggio e Conservazione dei Beni Culturali Immobili), an analysis of several Italian historical-cultural sites (Paestum - SA, Volterra - PI, Pienza - SI, Civita di Bagnoregio - VT, Orvieto - TR, Populonia - LI) is being conducted by the UNESCO Chair "Prevention and sustainable management of hydrogeological risk" at the University of Florence. The analysed dataset includes old and new satellite sensors: from ERS-ENVISAT time series, to CosmoSky-Med (comprising data from 2011 to 2014, and a new acquisition from 2015 to 2023), and Sentinel data available from the European Ground Motion Service. The data was processed using PSI (Persistent Scatterer Interferometry) techniques, and combined with geothematic data in a GIS environment; field validation was carried out for each site by means of field surveys. The outcomes of this work will provide useful suggestions for damage prevention in the framework of the planning of protection-conservation measures of the cultural assets.

In support of these activities, a non-invasive investigation model is proposed that incorporates non-invasive strategies for preventing and monitoring instability and natural hazards. In particular, the evaluation of the conditions of the cultural heritage assets affected by hydrogeological risk is performed through the methodologies based on PSI data already tested in the scientific literature to evaluate the conditions of potential instability of the artefacts on a local scale, analyzed considering the remotely detected deformation rates from satellite measurements, and integrated with background geological data, construction characteristics and field evidence.
This project aims at developing a sustainable system for analyzing and monitoring the architectural and cultural heritage integrity and stability, incorporating a high level of scientific and technological knowledge, in order to protect cultural heritage threatened by natural hazards, as well as to give a realistic and current picture of hydrogeological risks and vulnerabilities.

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