During the early stages of the 2004-2008 Mount St. Helens eruption, the source process that produced a sustained sequence of repetitive long-period (LP) seismic events also produced impulsive broadband infrasonic signals in the atmosphere. To assess whether the signals could be generated simply by seismic-acoustic coupling from the shallow LP events, we perform finite difference simulation of the seismo-acoustic wavefield using a single numerical scheme for the elastic ground and atmosphere. The effects of topography, velocity structure, wind, and source configuration are considered. The simulations show that a shallow source buried in a homogeneous elastic solid produces a complex wave train in the atmosphere consisting of P/SV and Rayleigh wave energy converted locally along the propagation path, and acoustic energy originating from , the source epicenter. Although the horizontal acoustic velocity of the latter is consistent with our data, the modeled amplitude ratios of pressure to vertical seismic velocity are too low in comparison with observations, and the characteristic differences in seismic and acoustic waveforms and spectra cannot be reproduced from a common point source. The observations therefore require a more complex source process in which the infrasonic signals are a record of only the broadband pressure excitation mechanism of the seismic LP events. The observations and numerical results can be explained by a model involving the repeated rapid pressure loss from a hydrothermal crack by venting into a shallow layer of loosely consolidated, highly permeable material. Heating by magmatic activity causes pressure to rise, periodically reaching the pressure threshold for rupture of the "valve" sealing the crack. Sudden opening of the valve generates the broadband infrasonic signal and simultaneously triggers the collapse of the crack, initiating resonance of the remaining fluid. Subtle waveform and amplitude variability of the infrasonic signals as recorded at an array 13.4 km to the NW of the volcano are attributed primarily to atmospheric boundary layer propagation effects, superimposed upon amplitude changes at the source. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
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The source of infrasound associated with long-period events at mount St. Helens