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Characterizing unrest: A retrospective look at 20 years of gas emissions and seismicity at Iliamna Volcano, Alaska

February 22, 2022

Episodes of unrest are not as well documented as eruptions at most volcanoes globally. Iliamna is an andesitic stratovolcano in the Cook Inlet of Alaska that has experienced several episodes of unrest. Unrest in 1996 was previously studied. Here we present data from a minor period of unrest between 2002 and 2006, and a more significant period in 2012. None of the episodes led to an eruption. A dike intrusion was suggested for the 1996 unrest based on increases in gas emissions and seismic analysis. The 2002–2006 period was characterized by a slight increase in the rate of seismicity to 13 events per day and was particularly notable due to an increase in deep long period (DLP) seismic events between 15 and 37 km that were not observed at other times. This period also included one airborne gas measurement with and elevated CO2/SO2 molar ratio (17). In 2012, Iliamna unrest was characterized by significantly elevated gas emissions (up to 582 t/d SO2 and 1385 t/d CO2) and up to 49 located earthquakes per day (M > 0), and was remarkably similar to the 1996 unrest. Differences in the observed evolution of the CO2/SO2 gas ratio in 2012 (2.2–4) compared to that in 1996 (up to 18) suggests that no new deep magma was involved in 2012, however this does not preclude the movement of a previously intruded magma. A months-long increase in the SO2/H2S molar ratio from 8 to 17 during the peak of the activity could reflect a temperature increase on the order of 10–30 °C of the emitted gas. Compared to pre-eruptive unrest at other Cook Inlet volcanoes, Iliamna unrest in 2012 differed in that gas emissions were < 1500 t/d and seismicity lacked a rapidly escalating sequence of earthquakes and volcanic tremor, which is normally observed in the hours to days before eruption. The observation of DLPs, the fact that Iliamna produces moderately elevated degassing over decadal timeframes, and the persistent dominance of SO2 over H2S, suggests that periodic input of fresh magma from the lower crust sustains the shallower magmatic system over time, which sets it apart from neighboring volcanoes in the Cook Inlet that show minimal activity between eruptions. Various scenarios could explain why Iliamna did not proceed to eruption in 2012. Finally, we present criteria by which monitoring data may suggest an increased likelihood of eruption at Iliamna in the future.

Publication Year 2022
Title Characterizing unrest: A retrospective look at 20 years of gas emissions and seismicity at Iliamna Volcano, Alaska
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2021.107448
Authors Cynthia Werner, John Power, Peter J. Kelly, Stephanie Prejean, Christoph Kern
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Index ID 70249481
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center