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Post-1978 tumescence at Long Valley Caldera, California: A geophysical perspective

April 27, 2020

Long Valley Caldera has been restless since at least 1978. Prominent symptoms of this unrest include earthquake swarms and tumescence (inflation) centered on the resurgent dome. Over the years, interpretations of physical processes underlying this unrest have varied considerably. Results from a collection of geophysical studies infer the presence and/or active intrusion of magma in the crust. Geologic evidence, however, does not support recent magmatic activity in the caldera, leading to an interpretation that the caldera volcanic system is moribund, and the current unrest is a result of second boiling (aqueous fluids released during crystallization of the rhyolitic magma that produced the Bishop Tuff). Here, we examine the collective constraints provided by geophysical studies over the past four decades. Although the current geophysical evidence does not conclusively discriminate between unrest driven by recent crustal magmatic intrusion versus second boiling, it does provide evidence that a large volume of partial melt persists within the mid- and lower crust. This implies that the Long Valley Caldera system as a whole is long-lived, and the magma reservoir remains at least partially molten. In the shallow crust, the possibility of small pockets of magma remains. In aggregate, the data suggest commonality with other large, long-lived silicic caldera systems, such as Yellowstone and Campi Flegrei. Although the possibility of eruption within Long Valley Caldera remains unlikely, the geophysical evidence argues that Long Valley has an active magmatic system at depth and we must retain the possibility of eruptive hazards.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Post-1978 tumescence at Long Valley Caldera, California: A geophysical perspective
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2020.106900
Authors David P. Hill, Emily Montgomery-Brown, David R. Shelly, Ashton F. Flinders, Stephanie Prejean
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Series Number
Index ID 70222524
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center