A group of satellite radar interferograms that span the time period from 1991 to 2000 shows that Westdahl volcano, Alaska, deflated during its 1991-1992 eruption and is reinflating at a rate that could produce another eruption within the next several years. The rates of inflation and deflation are approximated by exponential decay functions having time constants of about 6 years and a few days, respectively. This behavior is consistent with a deep, constant-pressure magma source connected to a shallow reservoir by a magma-filled conduit. An elastic deformation model indicates that the reservoir is located about 6 km below sea level and beneath Westdahl Peak. We propose that the magma flow rate through the conduit is governed by the pressure gradient between the deep source and the reservoir. The pressure gradient, and hence the flow rate, are greatest immediately after eruptions. Pressurization of the reservoir decreases both the pressure gradient and the flow rate, but eventually the reservoir ruptures and an eruption or intrusion ensues. The eruption rate is controlled partly by the pressure gradient between the reservoir and surface, and therefore it, too, decreases with time. When the supply of eruptible magma is exhausted, the eruption stops, the reservoir begins to repressurize at a high rate, and the cycle repeats. This model might also be appropriate for other frequently active volcanoes with stable magma sources and relatively simple magma storage systems.
Additional Publication Details
Magma supply dynamics at Westdahl volcano, Alaska, modeled from satellite radar interferometry