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Abstract

We use histories of magma efflux and surface deformation from a continuously operating global positioning system (cGPS) to quantitatively constrain magma transfer within the deep crustal plumbing of the Soufrière Hills Volcano (SHV). Displacement records reach a surface aperture of approximately 11 km and are continuous over three successive cycles of eruption followed by a pause spanning 1995–2008, and we focus on data of this time period. The assumed geometry and flow topology is for twin vertically stacked spherical chambers pierced by a vertical conduit that transmits magma from the deep crust to the surface. For a compressible magma column within an elastic crust we use mean deformation rates measured at between 6 and 13 cGPS stations for periods of effusion then repose and the time-history of magma efflux to define optimal chamber depths and basal magma input. The best fit for a constrained constant basal input to the system is obtained for chambers at 5 and 19 km, and a constant magma input rate of approximately 1.2 m3 s−1. Eruptive then pause episodes are, respectively, characterized by synchronous deflation then inflation of both shallow and deep chambers. Throughout this period of three repeated episodes of effusion then repose, the total effusive volume (c. 0.95 km3 dense rock equivalent, DRE) has been sourced half from the lower chamber (c. 0.5 km3) and half from below this chamber (c. 0.45 km3). A consistent observation, repeated through three episodes, is that the eruption restarts as the shallow chamber regains its original volume following the pause and that eruption rearrests when the shallow chamber has deflated by a small but constant volume change (c. 16–22 Mm3). This magmatic metering is consistent with a control on eruption periodicity that involves overpressured breaching of the shallow chamber followed by underpressured sealing. We contrast these observations with other contemporary models that have consistently placed an upper chamber at a depth of approximately 5–6 km, and deeper chambers at 12 km and deeper.

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