Steady subsidence of Medicine Lake volcano, northern California, revealed by repeated leveling surveys

Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth

, ,


  • The Publications Warehouse does not have links to digital versions of this publication at this time


Leveling surveys of a 193-km circuit across Medicine Lake volcano (MLV) in 1954 and 1989 show that the summit area subsided by as much as 302 ?? 30 mm (-8.6 ?? 0.9 mm/yr) with respect to a datum point near Bartle, California, 40 km to the southwest. This result corrects an error in the earlier analysis of the same data by Dzurisin et al. [1991], who reported the subsidence rate as -11.1 ?? 1.2 mm/yr. The subsidence pattern extends across the entire volcano, with a surface area of nearly 2000 km2. Two areas of localized subsidence by as much as 20 cm can be attributed to shallow normal faulting near the volcano's periphery. Surveys of an east-west traverse across Lava Beds National Monument on the north flank of the volcano in 1990 and of a 23-km traverse across the summit area in 1999 show that subsidence continued at essentially the same rate during 1989-1999 as 1954-1989. Volcano-wide subsidence can be explained by either a point source of volume loss (Mogi) or a contracting horizontal rectangular dislocation (sill) at a depth of 10-11 km. Volume loss rate estimates range from 0.0013 to 0.0032 km3/yr, depending mostly on the source depth estimate and source type. Based on first-order quantitative considerations, we can rule out that the observed subsidence is due to volume loss from magma withdrawal, thermal contraction, or crystallizing magma at depth. Instead, we attribute the subsidence and faulting to: (1 gravitational loading of thermally weakened crust by the mass of the volcano and associated intrusive rocks, and (2) thinning of locally weakened crust by Basin and Range deformation. The measured subsidence rate exceeds long-term estimates from drill hole data, suggesting that over long timescales, steady subsidence and episodic uplift caused by magmatic intrusions counteract each other to produce the lower net subsidence rate.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Steady subsidence of Medicine Lake volcano, northern California, revealed by repeated leveling surveys
Series title:
Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
Year Published:
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article