Volcanic tremor and plume height hysteresis from Pavlof Volcano, Alaska

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Science  06 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6320, pp. 45-48
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6108

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Hearing a volcanic plume

Monitoring remote eruptions—such as that of Pavlof Volcano, Alaska, in 2016—is challenging. Fee et al. found that the height of the ash plume during the Pavlof eruption could be inferred from sound waves detected by distant infrasound arrays and measurements of seismic tremor. The use of sound waves for monitoring is uncommon but well suited for remote eruptions, especially when we lack visual or satellite observations.

Science, this issue p. 45


The March 2016 eruption of Pavlof Volcano, Alaska, produced an ash plume that caused the cancellation of more than 100 flights in North America. The eruption generated strong tremor that was recorded by seismic and remote low-frequency acoustic (infrasound) stations, including the EarthScope Transportable Array. The relationship between the tremor amplitudes and plume height changes considerably between the waxing and waning portions of the eruption. Similar hysteresis has been observed between seismic river noise and discharge during storms, suggesting that flow and erosional processes in both rivers and volcanoes can produce irreversible structural changes that are detectable in geophysical data. We propose that the time-varying relationship at Pavlof arose from changes in the tremor source related to volcanic vent erosion. This relationship may improve estimates of volcanic emissions and characterization of eruption size and intensity.

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