Seismic constraints on caldera dynamics from the 2015 Axial Seamount eruption

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Science  16 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6318, pp. 1395-1399
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5563

Volcano monitoring goes into the deep

Axial Seamount is a large and active submarine volcano along the Juan de Fuca midocean ridge off the coast of the western United States. Eruptions in 1998 and 2011 were followed by periods of magma recharge, making it an ideal location to include in the Ocean Observatories Initiative Cabled Array. Wilcock et al. present real-time seismic data from the most recent eruption in April 2015 that allow the tracking of magma before and during eruption. Nooner and Chadwick show that eruptions are predictable on the basis of deformation data. As magma pools underneath it, Axial Seamount inflates and erupts when the inflation hits a threshold. Both studies elucidate the dynamics of submarine volcanoes, which vastly outnumber their aboveground counterparts.

Science, this issue p. 1395, p. 1399


Seismic observations in volcanically active calderas are challenging. A new cabled observatory atop Axial Seamount on the Juan de Fuca ridge allows unprecedented real-time monitoring of a submarine caldera. Beginning on 24 April 2015, the seismic network captured an eruption that culminated in explosive acoustic signals where lava erupted on the seafloor. Extensive seismic activity preceding the eruption shows that inflation is accommodated by the reactivation of an outward-dipping caldera ring fault, with strong tidal triggering indicating a critically stressed system. The ring fault accommodated deflation during the eruption and provided a pathway for a dike that propagated south and north beneath the caldera’s east wall. Once north of the caldera, the eruption stepped westward, and a dike propagated along the extensional north rift.

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