Geology & Geophysics Editors' Highlights

Relating Seismicity and Volcano Eruptions

A global study suggests that volcanic eruption forecasting and detection may be improved by examining earthquake mechanisms and clustering in combination with individual volcano properties.

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth


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Earthquakes are known to precede and coincide with volcanic activity, being triggered by multiple mechanisms (such as stress and pore pressure changes) related to the magmatic processes. Thus it might be possible to use seismicity to forecast impending volcanic eruptions and detect ongoing eruptions at remote and submarine locations that may lack permanent close monitoring.

Pesicek et al. [2021] offer a global quantitative perspective on the problem. They examine 870 volcanoes with confirmed Holocene eruptions (those that happened within the past 11,700 years) in relation to the earthquakes with magnitude equal to or above 4 within 30 kilometers of the vent. The occurrence of such an earthquake by itself does not tell much (only 1 percent of events are followed by an eruption and only 11 percent of eruptions are preceded by earthquakes), but additional properties of volcanos and seismicity may have improved predictive power. In particular, more than half of the examined multiple-event swarms with an increased percentage of non-double-couple earthquake mechanisms preceded eruptions.

The results suggest that combining individual volcano properties and multiple earthquake statistics may inform and improve multi-disciplinary approaches to probabilistic volcano forecast and detection.

Citation: Pesicek, J. D., Ogburn, S. E., & Prejean, S. G. [2021]. Indicators of volcanic eruptions revealed by global M4+ earthquakes. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 126, e2020JB021294. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020JB021294

―Ilya Zaliapin, Associate Editor, JGR: Solid Earth

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