Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Drainage of a deep magma reservoir near Mayotte inferred from seismicity and deformation


The dynamics of magma deep in the Earth’s crust are difficult to capture by geophysical monitoring. Since May 2018, a seismically quiet area offshore of Mayotte in the western Indian Ocean has been affected by complex seismic activity, including long-duration, very-long-period signals detected globally. Global Navigation Satellite System stations on Mayotte have also recorded a large surface deflation offshore. Here we analyse regional and global seismic and deformation data to provide a one-year-long detailed picture of a deep, rare magmatic process. We identify about 7,000 volcano-tectonic earthquakes and 407 very-long-period seismic signals. Early earthquakes migrated upward in response to a magmatic dyke propagating from Moho depth to the surface, whereas later events marked the progressive failure of the roof of a magma reservoir, triggering its resonance. An analysis of the very-long-period seismicity and deformation suggests that at least 1.3 km3 of magma drained from a reservoir of 10 to 15 km diameter at 25 to 35 km depth. We demonstrate that such deep offshore magmatic activity can be captured without any on-site monitoring.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Map view and cross sections of seismic and deformation sources.
Fig. 2: Timeline of the seismic sequence.
Fig. 3: MT solution for the 31 July 2018 VLP.
Fig. 4: Example of seismic signals and spectra recorded at the YTMZ station.
Fig. 5: Summary schematic.
Fig. 6: Resonance period of a magma-filled crack as a function of crack length and thickness.

Data availability

Seismic data used in this study pertain to networks II48, IU49, GE50, G51, PF52 and RA53 and are available at IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology), GEOFON (GEO-FOrschungsNetz), ORFEUS EIDA (Observatories and Research Facilities for European Seismology—European Integrated Data Archive) and/or the Réseau Sismologique et Géodésique Français (French seismological and geodetic network, RESIF53) web services. Geodetic data are available at the web facilities of the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory, at the University of Nevada, Reno54.

Code availability

All codes used in this work are open source. The codes used to generate individual results are available through the contact information from the original publications. Requests for further materials should be directed to S.C.


  1. Lemoine, A. et al. The volcano-tectonic crisis of 2018 east of Mayotte, Comoros Islands. Preprint at (2019).

  2. Ohiminato, T. et al. Waveform inversion of very-long-period impulsive signals associated with magmatic injection beneath Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 839–862 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Kumagai, H. & Chouet, B. A. Acoustic properties of a crack containing magmatic or hydrothermal fluids. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 105, 25493–25512 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Scrutton, R. A. et al. Constraints on the motion of Madagascar with respect to Africa. Mar. Geol. 43, 1–20 (1981).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Phethean, J. et al. Madagascar’s escape from Africa: a high-resolution plate reconstruction for the western Somali Basin and implications for supercontinent dispersal. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 17, 5036–5055 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Reeves, C. The position of Madagascar within Gondwana and its movements during Gondwana dispersal. J. Afr. Earth Sci. 94, 45–57 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Geiger, M. et al. Reappraisal of the timing of the breakup of Gondwana based on sedimentological and seismic evidence from the Morondava Basin, Madagascar. J. Afr. Earth Sci. 38, 363–381 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Coffin, M. & Rabinowitz, P. D. Reconstruction of Madagascar and Africa: evidence from the Davie Fracture Zone and western Somali Basin. J. Geophys. Res. 92, 9385–9406 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Jokat, W. et al. Timing and geometry of early Gondwana breakup. J. Geophys. Res. (2003).

  10. Leinweber, V. T. & Jokat, W. The jurassic history of the Africa—Antarctica corridor—new constraints from magnetic data on the conjugate continental margins.Tectonophysics 530, 87–101 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Mahanjane, E. S. A geotectonic history of the northern Mozambique Basin including the Beira High—a contribution for the understanding of its development. Mar. Petrol. Geol. 36, 1–12 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Mahanjane, E. S. The Davie Fracture Zone and adjacent basins in the offshore Mozambique Marginn—a new insights for the hydrocarbon potential. Mar. Petrol. Geol. 57, 561–571 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Emerick, C. & Duncan, R. Age progressive volcanism in the Comores Archipelago, western Indian Ocean and implications for Somali plate tectonics. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 60, 415–428 (1982).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Nougier, J. et al. The Comores archipelago in the western Indian Ocean: volcanology geochronology and geodynamic setting. J. Afr. Earth Sci. 5, 135–145 (1986).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Michon, L. in Active Volcanoes of the Southwest Indian Ocean (eds Bachelery, P., Lénat, J.-F., Di Muro, A. & Michon, L.) 233–244 (Springer, 2016).

  16. Audru, J. et al. Major natural hazards in a tropical volcanic island: a review for Mayotte Island, Comores archipelago, Indian Ocean. Eng. Geol. 114, 364–381 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Delvaux, D. & Barth, A. African stress pattern from formal inversion of focal mechanism data. Tectonophysics 482, 105–128 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Stamps, D. S. et al. Geodetic strain rate model for the east African rift system. Sci. Rep. 8, 732 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Cesca, S. et al. Seismic Catalogues of the 2018–2019 Volcano-seismic Crisis Offshore Mayotte (GFZ Data Services, 2019).

  20. Feuillet, N. MAYOBS1 Cruise, RV Marion Dufresne (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 2019);

  21. Kumagai, H. et al. Magmatic dike resonances inferred from very-long-period seismic signals. Science 299, 2058–2061 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Aster, R. et al. Very long period oscillations of Mount Erebus volcano. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth (2003).

  23. Talandier, J. et al. Unusual seismic activity in 2011 and 2013 at the submarine volcano rocard, Society hot spot (French Polynesia). Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 4247–4254 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Nikkhoo, M. et al. Compound dislocation models (CDMs) for volcano deformation analyses. Geophys. J. Int. 208, 877–894 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Heimann, S. et al. Grond—a probabilistic earthquake source inversion framework. V. 1.0. GFZ Data Services, (2018).

  26. Davis, P. M. Surface deformation due to inflation of an arbitrarily oriented triaxial ellipsoidal cavity in an elastic half-space, with reference to Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 91, 7429–7438 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Uhira, K. & Toriyama, N. Meeting with the May 29, 2015 eruption of Kuchinoerabujima volcano. Bull. Volcanol. Soc. Jpn. 60, 487–490 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  28. Sigmundsson, F. et al. Segmented lateral dyke growth in a rifting event at Bárðarbunga volcanic system, Iceland. Nature 517, 191–195 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. White, R. & McCausland, W. Volcano-tectonic earthquakes: a new tool for estimating intrusive volumes and forecasting eruptions. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 309, 139–155 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hayashi, Y. & Morita, Y. An image of a magma intrusion process inferred from precise hypocentral migrations of the earthquake swarm east of the Izu peninsula. Geophys. J. Int 153, 159–174 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Passarelli, L. et al. Stress changes, focal mechanisms, and earthquake scaling laws for the 2000 dike at Miyakejima (Japan). J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 120, 4130–4145 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Ruch, J. et al. Oblique rift opening revealed by reoccurring magma injection in central Iceland. Nat. Commun. 7, 12352 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Ágústsdóttir, T. et al. Strike‐slip faulting during the 2014 Bárðarbunga‐Holuhraun dike intrusion, central Iceland. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 1495–1503 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Wadge, G. The variation of magma discharge during basaltic eruptions. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 11, 139–168 (1981).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Ferrazzini, V. & Aki, K. Slow waves trapped in a fluid-filled infinite crack: implication for volcanic tremor. J. Geophys. Res. 92, 9215–9223 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Chouet, B. Long-period volcano seismicity: its source and use in eruption forecasting. Nature 380, 6572 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Maeda, Y. & Kumagai, H. A generalized equation for the resonance frequencies of a fluid-filled crack. Geophys. J. Int. 209, 192–201 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  38. Kumagai, H. et al. Very-long period seismic signals and caldera formation at Miyake Island, Japan. Science 293, 687–690 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Kobayashi, T. et al. Very long period seismic signals observed before the caldera formation with the 2000 Miyakejima volcanic activity, Japan. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth (2009).

  40. Kobayashi, T. et al. Intermittent inflations recorded by broadband seismometers prior to the caldera formation at Miyake-jima volcano in 2000. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 357-358, 145–151 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Munekane, H. et al. Mechanisms of step-like tilt changes and very long period seismic signals during the 2000 Miyakejima eruption: insights from kinematic GPS. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 121, 2932–2946 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Fontaine, F. R. et al. Very- and ultra-long-period seismic signals prior to and during caldera formation on La Reunion Island. Sci. Rep. 9, 8068 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Acocella, V. Understanding caldera structure and development: an overview of analogue models compared to natural calderas. Earth-Sci. Rev. 85, 125–160 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Levy, S. et al. Mechanics of fault reactivation before, during, and after the 2015 eruption of axial seamount. Geology 46, 447–450 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Jónsdóttir, K. et al. Evaluating changes of the Bárdarbunga caldera using repeating earthquakes. AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts, 2017, S22C-07 (2017).

  46. Cesca, S. & Heimann, S. in Moment Tensor Solutions: A Useful Tool for Seismotectonics (ed. D’Amico, S.) 163–181, (Springer, 2018).

  47. Geshi, N. et al. Evaluating volumes for magma chambers and magma withdrawn for caldera collapse. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 396, 107–115 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Global Seismograph Network - IRIS/IDA (GSN) (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks, 1986);

  49. Global Seismograph Network—IRIS/USGS (GSN) (International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks, 1988);

  50. The GE Seismic Network (GEOFON Data Centre, 1993);

  51. GEOSCOPE (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris and Ecole et Observatoire des Sciences de la Terre de Strasbourg, 1982);

  52. Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory Network (Reunion Island) (OVPF) (FDSN, accessed 01 Aug 2019);

  53. RESIF-RAP Accelerometric Permanent Network (RESIF, RESIF-RAP French Accelerometric Network, 1995);

  54. Blewitt, G., Hammond, W. C. & Kreemer, C. Harnessing the GPS data explosion for interdisciplinary science. Eos (2018).

Download references


The discovery of the underwater volcano is a result of the MAYOBS 1 campaign that took place from 2 to 19 May, 2019 aboard the Marion Dufresne oceanographic vessel. This campaign was conducted by several French research institutions and laboratories (IPGP/CNRS/BRGM/IFREMER/IPGS) as part of a CNRS-INSU programme20. We thank CNRS-INSU for making public the location and size of the discovered volcano. M.I. thanks H. Sudhaus for her valuable contribution and acknowledges funding by the German Research Foundation DFG through an Emmy Noether Young Researcher Grant (no. 276464525). G.P. is funded by the German Research Foundation DFG project (no. 362440331), a subproject of “SPP 2017: Mountain Building Processes in 4D” (project number no. 313806092). We thank T. James and T. Davis for revising the English text.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



S.C. coordinated this project, conceived the manuscript and figures, and analysed, modelled and interpreted local accelerometric data. J.L. performed the VLP and array analysis. S.H. and H.R. performed the MT inversion for VT and VLP events. M.I., M.N. and L.P. analysed and modelled deformation data. G.P. assessed the seismic data quality. E.R., F.C. and T.D. contributed to the interpretation of results and discussion section. S.C., E.R., F.C. and T.D. drafted the manuscript. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Simone Cesca.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Primary Handling Editors: Stefan Lachowycz; Melissa Plail.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cesca, S., Letort, J., Razafindrakoto, H.N.T. et al. Drainage of a deep magma reservoir near Mayotte inferred from seismicity and deformation. Nat. Geosci. 13, 87–93 (2020).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing