Seismogenic lavas and explosive eruption forecasting


Volcanic dome-building episodes commonly exhibit acceleration in both effusive discharge rate and seismicity before explosive eruptions1. This should enable the application of material failure forecasting methods to eruption forecasting2,3. To date, such methods have been based exclusively on the seismicity of the country rock4. It is clear, however, that the rheology and deformation rate of the lava ultimately dictate eruption style5. The highly crystalline lavas involved in these eruptions are pseudoplastic fluids that exhibit a strong component of shear thinning as their deformation accelerates across the ductile to brittle transition6. Thus, understanding the nature of the ductile–brittle transition in dome lavas may well hold the key to an accurate description of dome growth and stability. Here we present the results of rheological experiments with continuous microseismic monitoring, which reveal that dome lavas are seismogenic and that the character of the seismicity changes markedly across the ductile–brittle transition until complete brittle failure occurs at high strain rates. We conclude that magma seismicity, combined with failure forecasting methods, could potentially be applied successfully to dome-building eruptions for volcanic forecasting.

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Figure 1: Experimental results for successive deformation of a Colima lava melt at 8, 16 and 24 MPa.
Figure 2: Acoustic-emission energy release rates for Colima and Bezymianny lavas at different strain rates.
Figure 3: Anisotropy changes associated with deformation.
Figure 4: Application of the FFM to a Colima lava.


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We thank O. Spieler for collecting the samples, K. T. Fehr, S. Bernstein and J. Pawlowski for assistance during microprobe analyses and M. Sieber for technical assistance. This is publication no. GEOTECH-315 of the research and development programme GEOTECHNOLOGIEN.

Author Contributions Y.L., P.G.M. and B.C. performed the acoustic-emission experiments; Y.L. analysed the data under the complementary supervisions of D.B.D., K.-U.H. and J.W.; and A.G. and J.H.K. performed the quantitative pattern analyses.

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Correspondence to Y. Lavallée.

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Lavallée, Y., Meredith, P., Dingwell, D. et al. Seismogenic lavas and explosive eruption forecasting. Nature 453, 507–510 (2008) doi:10.1038/nature06980

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