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Content archived on 2024-06-16

When do injected dykes reach the surface to feed eruptions in a volcano? Field observations, numerical modelling, and hazard implications


With more than 500 million people living near active volcanoes worldwide, including many million in EU, improved understanding of how volcanoes work is absolutely necessary so as to be able reduce volcanic risk. The understanding of hazard-related processes once an eruption has progressed much in recent decades.

No similar progress has been made in understanding the physical processes that occur inside volcanoes during unrest periods, some of which are manifest in surface deformation, landslides, caldera collapses, and eruptions. For a volcanic eruption to occur, it is normally necessary that a magma chamber becomes ruptured and a magma-filled fracture, a dyke, forms and is able to propagate to the surface.

However, most dykes are non-feeders; they become arrested at depths in the volcanoes. Very many well-exposed arrested and feeder dykes are known from Tenerife, Iceland, and Italy, but many more need to be found and studied. The main aims of this research are to use field observations, analytical, and numerical models of dyke emplacement to help interpret unrest periods in active volcanoes and to assess volcanic hazards.

The focus is on the following topics: the stress, thermal, and mechanical conditions which determine whether dykes injected from shallow chambers become arrested or reach the surface; the surface stress and deformation induced by a typical dyke propagating towards the surface; the thermal effects of dyke emplacement; how the eruptive fissure propagates laterally at the surface; and the role o f dykes in triggering landslides on large volcanic edifices.

The results will be applied to active volcanoes in Spain, Italy and Iceland. In testing and applying the models, use will be made of existing extensive geological, geochemical, and geophysical data sets. The project results will be used to improve the understanding of the current unrest episode, such as in Tenerife since January 2004, with a view of assessing the probability of a dyke-fed eruption.

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