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Linking Petrology and Seismology at an Active Volcano

Science  25 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6084, pp. 1023-1027
DOI: 10.1126/science.1220066

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Abstract

Many active volcanoes exhibit changes in seismicity, ground deformation, and gas emissions, which in some instances arise from magma movement in the crust before eruption. An enduring challenge in volcano monitoring is interpreting signs of unrest in terms of the causal subterranean magmatic processes. We examined over 300 zoned orthopyroxene crystals from the 1980–1986 eruption of Mount St. Helens that record pulsatory intrusions of new magma and volatiles into an existing larger reservoir before the eruption occurred. Diffusion chronometry applied to orthopyroxene crystal rims shows that episodes of magma intrusion correlate temporally with recorded seismicity, providing evidence that some seismic events are related to magma intrusion. These time scales are commensurate with monitoring signals at restless volcanoes, thus improving our ability to forecast volcanic eruptions by using petrology.

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