Abstract

Volcanoes change shape as they grow through eruption, intrusion, erosion, and deformation. To study volcano shape evolution we apply a comprehensive morphometric analysis to two contrasting arcs, Central America and the southern Central Andes. Using Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation models, we compute and define parameters for plan (ellipticity, irregularity) and profile (height/width, summit/basal width, slope) shape, as well as size (height, width, volume). We classify volcanoes as cones, sub-cones, and massifs, and recognize several evolutionary trends. Many cones grow to a critical height (~1200 m) and volume (~10 km3), after which most widen into sub-cones or massifs, but some grow into large cones. Large cones undergo sector collapse and/or gravitational spreading, without significant morphometry change. Other smaller cones evolve by vent migration to elliptical subcones and massifs before reaching the critical height. The evolutionary trends can be related to magma flux, edifice strength, structure, and tectonics. In particular, trends may be controlled by two balancing factors: magma pressure versus lithostatic pressure, and conduit resistance versus edifice resistance. Morphometric analysis allows for the long-term state of individual or volcano groups to be assessed. Morphological trends can be integrated with geological, geophysical, and geochemical data to better define volcano evolution models.

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