Hydrologic systems change in response to volcanic activity, and in turn may be sensitive indicators of volcanic activity. Here we investigate the coupled nature of magmatic and hydrologic systems using continuous multichannel time series of soil temperature collected on the flanks of Masaya volcano, Nicaragua, one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. The soil temperatures were measured in a low-temperature fumarole field located 3.5 km down the flanks of the volcano. Analysis of these time series reveals that they respond extremely rapidly, on a time scale of minutes, to changes in volcanic activity also manifested at the summit vent. These rapid temperature changes are caused by increased flow of water vapor through flank fumaroles during volcanism. The soil temperature response, ~5 °C, is repetitive and complex, with as many as 13 pulses during a single volcanic episode. Analysis of the frequency spectrum of these temperature time series shows that these anomalies are characterized by broad frequency content during volcanic activity. They are thus easily distinguished from seasonal trends, diurnal variations, or individual rainfall events, which triggered rapid transient increases in temperature during 5% of events. We suggest that the mechanism responsible for the distinctive temperature signals is rapid change in pore pressure in response to magmatism, a response that can be enhanced by meteoric water infiltration. Monitoring of distal fumaroles can therefore provide insight into coupled volcanic-hydrologic-meteorologic systems, and has potential as an inexpensive monitoring tool.
Additional publication details
Rapid response of a hydrologic system to volcanic activity: Masaya volcano, Nicaragua