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Magmatic degassing, lava dome extrusion, and explosions from Mount Cleveland volcano, Alaska, 2011–2015: Insight into the continuous nature of volcanic activity over multi-year timescales

May 1, 2017

Mount Cleveland volcano (1730 m) is one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc, Alaska, but heightened activity is rarely accompanied by geophysical signals, which makes interpretation of the activity difficult. In this study, we combine volcanic gas emissions measured for the first time in August 2015 with longer-term measurements of thermal output and lava extrusion rates between 2011 and 2015 calculated from MODIS satellite data with the aim to develop a better understanding of the nature of volcanic activity at Mount Cleveland. Degassing measurements were made in the month following two explosive events (21 July and 7 August 2015) and during a period of new dome growth in the summit crater. SO2 emission rates ranged from 400 to 860 t d− 1 and CO2/SO2 ratios were < 3, consistent with the presence of shallow magma in the conduit and the observed growth of a new lava dome. Thermal anomalies derived from MODIS data from 2011 to 2015 had an average repose time of only 4 days, pointing to the continuous nature of volcanic activity at this volcano. Rapid increases in the cumulative thermal output were often coincident with visual confirmation of dome growth or accumulations of tephra in the crater. The average rate of lava extrusion calculated for 9 periods of rapid increase in thermal output was 0.28 m3 s− 1, and the total volume extruded from 2011 to 2015 was 1.9–5.8 Mm3. The thermal output from the lava extrusion events only accounts for roughly half of the thermal budget, suggesting a continued presence of shallow magma in the upper conduit, likely driven by convection. Axisymmetric dome morphology and occasional drain back of lava into the conduit suggests low-viscosity magmas drive volcanism at Mount Cleveland. It follows also that only small overpressures can be maintained given the small domes and fluid magmas, which is consistent with the low explosivity of most of Mount Cleveland's eruptions. Changes between phases of dome growth and explosive activity are somewhat unpredictable and likely result from plugs that are related to the dome obtaining a critical dimension, or from small variations in the magma ascent rate that lead to crystallization-induced blockages in the upper conduit, thereby reducing the ability of magma to degas. We suggest the small magma volumes, slow ascent rates, and low magma viscosity lead to the overall lack of anomalous geophysical signals prior to eruptions, and that more continuous volcanic degassing measurements might lead to more successful eruption forecasting at this continuously-active open-vent volcano.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Magmatic degassing, lava dome extrusion, and explosions from Mount Cleveland volcano, Alaska, 2011–2015: Insight into the continuous nature of volcanic activity over multi-year timescales
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2017.03.001
Authors Cynthia Werner, Christoph Kern, Diego Coppola, John J. Lyons, Peter J. Kelly, Kristi L. Wallace, David Schneider, Rick Wessels
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Index ID 70192603
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center