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Triggering of volcanic eruptions

Abstract

Although earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are each manifestations of large-scale tectonic plate and mantle motions, it is usually thought that the occurrences of these events are not directly related. There have been some studies, however, in which triggering of volcanic eruptions by earthquakes (remote from the volcano) has been proposed1,2. The 1992 Landers (southern California) earthquake caused triggered seismicity at very large distances3, including the magmatically active4 Long Valley caldera region which also experienced a significant coincident deformation transient5. Motivated by this demonstration of the ability of a distant earthquake to disturb a volcanic system, and the earlier studies of specific cases of eruption triggering, we examine here the historical record of eruptions and earthquakes to see if there are indeed significantly more eruptions immediately following large earthquakes. We find that within a day or two of large earthquakes there are many more eruptions within a range of 750 km than would otherwise be expected. Additionally, it is well known6 that volcanoes separated by hundreds of kilometres frequently erupt in unison; the characteristics of such eruption pairs are also consistent with the hypothesis that the second eruption is triggered by earthquakes associated with the first.

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Acknowledgements

We thank T. Simkin for making available the Smithsonian eruption catalogue in digital form.

Author information

Correspondence to Alan T. Linde.

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Further reading

Figure 1: Histograms of number of eruptions occurring within ±1,000 days of large earthquakes.
Figure 2: Histogram showing number of eruptions per day following a previous eruption and within 200 km of the first eruption.

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