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Dead or Alive: Finding the Origin of Caldera Unrest using Magma Reservoir Models

Project description

A model for research on caldera unrest

Caldera-forming volcanic eruptions may harm and alter the global climate. During eruption, huge quantities of magma are ejected, often resulting in deadly pyroclastic density currents and lahars and release of noxious gases. In many cases, episodic unrest (expressed by increased seismicity, rising gas emissions and pronounced uplift) represents a major concern related to the eventual potential of such eruptions. However, it remains difficult to pinpoint whether the unrest indicates an increased potential for explosive eruptions. The EU-funded DEFORM project will create a physics-based model of a magma reservoir, to identify which processes can cause magma injection and evolution to evolve in episodic unrest. The project will improve understanding and knowledge of the eruption risk associated with caldera unrest.


Caldera-forming volcanic eruptions can have severe impacts from the local to global scale. As vast quantities of magma are ejected during the eruption, they can trigger deadly pyroclastic density currents and lahars, release noxious gases and even alter global climate. At many calderas, episodic unrest in the form of pronounced uplift, increased seismicity and elevated gas emissions raise concern over the potential for such destructive eruptions. However, it remains difficult to ascertain whether the unrest observations indicate (1) an injection of new magma into the crustal reservoir, which could increase its potential for explosive eruptions, or (2) a sudden release of magmatic volatiles from a cooling and crystallizing reservoir, which would remain unlikely to erupt explosively. In this proposed project, I will develop a physics-based model of a magma reservoir to determine the processes involved in magma injection and evolution that may lead to episodic unrest. Of particular interest is how gases migrate through the system and alter reservoir volume. The model will simulate the thermo-mechanical evolution of a two-dimensional, three-phase (solids, liquids, gas) magma reservoir. By leveraging emerging continuum frameworks for reactive transport modelling, this work will expand existing two-dimensional models to simulate three phases in varying proportions in a computationally efficient approach. The reservoir model will be coupled to ductile-to-brittle crustal deformation to understand the conditions that lead to episodic unrest. I will compare simulation results with time series observations of ground deformation and gas emissions from Laguna del Maule in Chile, thought to be undergoing magma injection, and Long Valley in the US, thought to have experienced punctuated gas release. Results will bridge the gap among current models of three-phase magma dynamics and will improve understanding of the eruption hazard implied by caldera unrest.


Net EU contribution
€ 103 539,28
Raemistrasse 101
8092 Zuerich

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Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera Zürich Zürich
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 103 539,28

Participants (1)