Magma extrusion dynamics revealed by high-frequency gas monitoring at Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat
S. R. Young, B. Voight, H. J. Duffell, 2003. "Magma extrusion dynamics revealed by high-frequency gas monitoring at Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat", Volcanic Degassing, C. Oppenheimer, D. M. Pyle, J. Barclay
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Andesitic to dacitic dome-building volcanoes often present a problem for eruption forecasting because signs of impending activity can be minimal or ambiguous. Gas monitoring is one of a number of techniques used to assist in eruption forecasting. However, a variety of explanations have been offered for the large variations in gas release that are commonly reported from erupting volcanoes. Difficulties in interpretation can arise because gas-flux measurements are generally acquired at lower sampling rates than other geophysical observations. Here, we report SO2 flux measurements, by correlation spectroscopy, recorded semi-continuously during December 1999 to January 2000 at the Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat. We compare these data to continuously recorded seismic records, and interpret the results in terms of conduit dynamics. We demonstrate two- to six-fold variations in gas flux over a few hours, and show that these variations can be systematic and directly correlated with long-period swarm seismicity. For the period of study, we find that the gas-flux peak lags several tens of minutes behind the peak in seismic energy release. These features are consistent with models of oscillating magma flow, where magma viscosity is dependent on melt volatile content. We propose that seismicity reflects conduit pressurization, and find that gas flux directly reflects magma flow rate. Although other volcanoes might behave differently, our results suggest that it can be possible to use continuous gas measurements to monitor conduit behaviour, perhaps providing short-term warnings of impending eruptions.