Precursory swarms of long-period events at Redoubt Volcano (1989-1990), Alaska: Their origin and use as a forecasting tool

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
By: , and 



During the eruption of Redoubt Volcano from December 1989 through April 1990, the Alaska Volcano Observatory issued advance warnings of several tephra eruptions based on changes in seismic activity related to the occurrence of precursory swarms of long-period (LP) seismic events (dominant period of about 0.5 s). The initial eruption on December 14 occurred after 23 years of quiescence and was heralded by a 23-hour swarm of LP events that ended abruptly with the eruption. After a series of vent-clearing explosions over the next few days, dome growth began on December 21. Another swarm, with LP events similar to those of the first, began on the 26th and ended in a major tephra eruption on January 2. Eruptions continued over the next two weeks and then ceased until February 15, when a large eruption initiated a long phase of repetitive dome-building and dome-destroying episodes that continued into April. Warnings were issued before the major events on December 14 and January 2, but as the eruptive sequence continued after January 2, the energy of the swarms decreased and forecasting became more difficult. A significant but less intense swarm preceded the February 15 eruption, which was not forecast. This eruption destroyed the only seismograph on the volcanic edifice and stymied forecasting until March 4, when the first of three new stations was installed within 3 km of the active vent. From March 4 to the end of the sequence on April 21, there were eight eruptions, six of which were preceded by detectable swarms of LP events. Although weak, these swarms provided the basis for warnings issued before the eruptions on March 23 and April 6. The initial swarm on December 13 had the following features: (1) short duration (23 hours); (2) a rapidly accelerating rate of seismic energy release over the first 18 hours of the swarm, followed by a decline of activity during the 5 hours preceding the eruption; (3) a magnitude range from −0.4 to 1.6; (4) nearly identical LP signatures with a dominant period near 0.5 s; (5) dilatational first motions everywhere; and (6) a stationary source location at a depth of 1.4 km beneath the crater. This occurrence of long-period events suggests a model involving the interaction of magma with groundwater in which magmatic gases, steam and water drive a fixed conduit at a stationary point throughout the swarm. The initiation of that sequence of events is analogous to the failure of a pressure-relief valve connecting a lower, supercharged magma-dominated reservoir to a shallow hydrothermal system. A three-dimensional model of a vibrating fluid-filled crack recently developed by Chouet is found to be compatible with the seismic data and yields the following parameters for the LP source: crack length, 280–380 m; crack width, 140–190 m; crack thickness, 0.05–0.20 m; crack stiffness, 100–200; sound speed of fluid, 0.8–1.3 km/s; compressional-wave speed of rock, 5.1 km/s; density ratio of fluid to rock, ≈0.4; and ratio of bulk modulus of fluid to rigidity of rock, 0.03–0.07. The fluid-filled crack is excited intermittently by an impulsive pressure drop that varies in magnitude within the range of 0.4 to 40 bar. Such disturbance appears to be consistent with a triggering mechanism associated with choked flow conditions in the crack.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Precursory swarms of long-period events at Redoubt Volcano (1989-1990), Alaska: Their origin and use as a forecasting tool
Series title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
DOI 10.1016/0377-0273(94)90030-2
Volume 62
Issue 1-4
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Volcano Hazards Program
Description 41 p.
First page 95
Last page 135
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Cook inlet, Redoubt Volcano
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