Deformation studies began at Nevado del Ruiz 23 days before the devastating 13 November 1985 eruption, at least 12 months after precursory seismicity and fumarolic activity began. The late start in geodetic monitoring, limited number of stations in the pre-eruption network, and inconsistent patterns in the observed deformation limit conclusions about intrusive activity in the months and weeks prior to the eruption. However, the data require that the magma source of the devastating eruption was either deeper than 7 km or, if shallow, recovered the same volume and position within one week of the eruption. Geodetic monitoring resumed 1 week after the eruption and, by April 1986, included 11 tilt-leveling stations, 38 EDM lines, and 7 short leveling lines - a network capable of detecting emplacement or movement of magma volumes as small as 3 MCM (3 ?? 106 m3) to a depth of 2-3 km (using a point-source model), 10 MCM to 7 km, 50 MCM to 10 km, and 200 MCM to 15 km beneath Ruiz. In addition, 4 telemetered tiltmeters provided the capability of detecting, in real time, the fairly rapid ascent of much smaller magma bodies. Stations established to detect instability of the summit ice cap after the eruption were discontinued in early 1986. The data collected from the geodetic networks have higher than normal variance but demonstrate that little or no cumulative deformation of Ruiz occurred from October 1985 through March 1988. Thus, little, if any, magma intruded above 5 km beneath the summit during or after the 13 November 1985 eruption. This lack of significant intrusive activity agrees with the surprisingly low seismic energy release under Ruiz and makes direct degassing of a large batholith an improbable explanation of the large sulfur flux to date at Ruiz. Part of the variance in the geodetic data results from real but noncumulative deformation that may in part be pressure-buffered by a fairly large geothermal water-gas mixture for which abundant physical evidence exists. Part of the noncumulative deformation, some of the fairly dispersed and low-level seismicity under Ruiz, and some phreatic events appear to correlate with seasonal precipitation patterns. Hence rain/snow-loading and groundwater interaction may cause deformation events and possibly help trigger some phreatic explosions and seismic events at Ruiz and, as search of the literature reveals, at other volcanoes in metastable states. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Deformation monitoring at Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia - October 1985 - March 1988