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Massive edifice failure at Aleutian arc volcanoes

January 1, 2007

Along the 450-km-long stretch of the Aleutian volcanic arc from Great Sitkin to Kiska Islands, edifice failure and submarine debris-avalanche deposition have occurred at seven of ten Quaternary volcanic centers. Reconnaissance geologic studies have identified subaerial evidence for large-scale prehistoric collapse events at five of the centers (Great Sitkin, Kanaga, Tanaga, Gareloi, and Segula). Side-scan sonar data collected in the 1980s by GLORIA surveys reveal a hummocky seafloor fabric north of several islands, notably Great Sitkin, Kanaga, Bobrof, Gareloi, Segula, and Kiska, suggestive of landslide debris. Simrad EM300 multibeam sonar data, acquired in 2005, show that these areas consist of discrete large blocks strewn across the seafloor, supporting the landslide interpretation from the GLORIA data. A debris-avalanche deposit north of Kiska Island (177.6° E, 52.1° N) was fully mapped by EM300 multibeam revealing a hummocky surface that extends 40 km from the north flank of the volcano and covers an area of ∼ 380 km2. A 24-channel seismic reflection profile across the longitudinal axis of the deposit reveals a several hundred-meter-thick chaotic unit that appears to have incised into well-bedded sediment, with only a few tens of meters of surface relief.

Edifice failures include thin-skinned, narrow, Stromboli-style collapse as well as Bezymianny-style collapse accompanied by an explosive eruption, but many of the events appear to have been deep-seated, removing much of an edifice and depositing huge amounts of debris on the sea floor. Based on the absence of large pyroclastic sheets on the islands, this latter type of collapse was not accompanied by large eruptions, and may have been driven by gravity failure instead of magmatic injection. Young volcanoes in the central and western portions of the arc (177° E to 175° W) are located atop the northern edge of the ∼ 4000-m-high Aleutian ridge. The position of the Quaternary stratocones relative to the edge of the Aleutian ridge appears to strongly control their likelihood for, and direction of, past collapse. The ridge's steep drop to the north greatly increases potential runout length for slides that originate at the island chain.

Publication Year 2007
Title Massive edifice failure at Aleutian arc volcanoes
DOI 10.1016/j.epsl.2007.01.030
Authors Michelle L. Coombs, S.M. White, D. W. Scholl
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Index ID 70030161
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Hazards Program