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Modelling the lava dome extruded at Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat, August 2005–May 2006. Part II: Rockfall activity and talus deformation

Hale, A.J., Calder, E.S., Loughlin, S.C., Wadge, G. and Ryan, G.A. (2009) Modelling the lava dome extruded at Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat, August 2005–May 2006. Part II: Rockfall activity and talus deformation. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 187 (1-2). pp. 69-84. ISSN 0377-0273

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2009.08.014


During many lava dome-forming eruptions, persistent rockfalls and the concurrent development of a substantial talus apron around the foot of the dome are important aspects of the observed activity. An improved understanding of internal dome structure, including the shape and internal boundaries of the talus apron, is critical for determining when a lava dome is poised for a major collapse and how this collapse might ensue. We consider a period of lava dome growth at the Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat, from August 2005 to May 2006, during which a 100 × 106 m3 lava dome developed that culminated in a major dome-collapse event on 20 May 2006. We use an axi-symmetrical Finite Element Method model to simulate the growth and evolution of the lava dome, including the development of the talus apron. We first test the generic behaviour of this continuum model, which has core lava and carapace/talus components. Our model describes the generation rate of talus, including its spatial and temporal variation, as well as its post-generation deformation, which is important for an improved understanding of the internal configuration and structure of the dome. We then use our model to simulate the 2005 to 2006 Soufrière Hills dome growth using measured dome volumes and extrusion rates to drive the model and generate the evolving configuration of the dome core and carapace/talus domains. The evolution of the model is compared with the observed rockfall seismicity using event counts and seismic energy parameters, which are used here as a measure of rockfall intensity and hence a first-order proxy for volumes. The range of model-derived volume increments of talus aggraded to the talus slope per recorded rockfall event, approximately 3 × 103–13 × 103 m3 per rockfall, is high with respect to estimates based on observed events. From this, it is inferred that some of the volumetric growth of the talus apron (perhaps up to 60–70%) might have occurred in the form of aseismic deformation of the talus, forced by an internal, laterally spreading core. Talus apron growth by this mechanism has not previously been identified, and this suggests that the core, hosting hot gas-rich lava, could have a greater lateral extent than previously considered.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO)
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Environmental Systems Science Centre
ID Code:7521
Uncontrolled Keywords:lava dome; talus; rockfall; seismicity

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