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Towards forecasting volcanic eruptions using seismic noise


Volcanic eruptions are preceded by increased magma pressures, leading to the inflation of volcanic edifices1. Ground deformation resulting from volcano inflation can be revealed by various techniques such as spaceborne radar interferometry2, or by strain- and tiltmeters3. Monitoring this process in real time can provide us with useful information to forecast volcanic eruptions. In some cases, however, volcano inflation can be localized at depth with no measurable effects at the surface, and despite considerable effort4,5 monitoring changes in volcanic interiors has proven to be difficult. Here we use the properties of ambient seismic noise recorded over an 18-month interval to show that changes in the interior of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano can be monitored continuously by measuring very small relative seismic-velocity perturbations, of the order of 0.05%. Decreases in seismic velocity a few weeks before eruptions suggest pre-eruptive inflation of the volcanic edifice, probably due to increased magma pressure. The ability to record the inflation of volcanic edifices in this fashion should improve our ability to forecast eruptions and their intensity and potential environmental impact.

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Figure 1: Measurements of relative time perturbations (Δτ/τ).
Figure 2: Evolution of relative velocity changes on Piton de la Fournaise over 18 months.
Figure 3: Regionalization of the velocity-variation anomalies.


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All the data used in this work were collected by the seismological network of the Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise. We are grateful to the Observatory staff. We thank L. Stehly, P. Gouédard, L. de Barros, E. Larose, P. Roux and C. Sens-Schönfelder for helpful discussions. We are grateful to A. Peltier and Meteo France for providing us with extensometer and meteorological data respectively. We thank F. Renard, I. Manighetti and G. Poupinet for constructive comments concerning the manuscript. This work was supported by ANR (France) under contracts 05-CATT-010-01 (PRECORSIS) and ANR-06-CEXC-005 (COHERSIS).

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F.B., N.M.S., M.C. and Z.D. carried out the data analysis. M.C. was also the project manager. Z.D. also carried out field work. V.F. and A.N. were responsible for preliminary tests and data collection. O.C. carried out the computer code programming.

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Correspondence to Florent Brenguier.

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Brenguier, F., Shapiro, N., Campillo, M. et al. Towards forecasting volcanic eruptions using seismic noise. Nature Geosci 1, 126–130 (2008).

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