Juvenile magma recognition and eruptive dynamics inferred from the analysis of ash time series: The 2015 reawakening of Cotopaxi volcano

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Forecasting future activity and performing hazard assessments during the reactivation of volcanoes remain great challenges for the volcanological community. On August 14, 2015 Cotopaxi volcano erupted for the first time in 73 years after approximately four months of precursory activity, which included an increase in seismicity, gas emissions, and minor ground deformation. Here we discuss the use of near real-time petrological monitoring of ash samples as a complementary aid to geophysical monitoring, in order to infer eruption dynamics and evaluate possible future eruptive activity at Cotopaxi. Twenty ash samples were collected between August 14 and November 23, 2015 from a monitoring site on the west flank of the volcano. These samples contain a range of grain types that we classified as: hydrothermal/altered, lithic, juvenile, and free crystals. The relative proportions of theses grains evolved as the eruption progressed, with increasing amounts of juvenile material and a decrease in hydrothermally altered material. In samples from the initial explosion, juvenile grains are glassy, microlite-poor and contain hydrothermal minerals (opal and alunite). The rising magma came in contact with the hydrothermal system under confinement, causing hydro-magmatic explosions that cleared the upper part of the plumbing system. Subsequently, the magmatic column produced a thermal aureole in the conduit and dried out the hydrothermal system, allowing for dry eruptions. Magma ascent rates were low enough to allow for efficient outgassing and microlite growth. Constant supply of magma from below caused quasi-continuous disruption of the uppermost magma volume through a combination of shear-deformation and gas expansion. The combination of increasing crystallinity of juvenile grains, and high measured SO2 flux indicate decreasing integrated magma ascent rates and clearing of the hydrothermal system along transport pathways in a system open to gas loss. The near real-time monitoring of ash samples combined with traditional geophysical monitoring techniques during the reawakening of Cotopaxi allowed us to gain a much clearer understanding of events than when using traditional geophysical monitoring alone.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Juvenile magma recognition and eruptive dynamics inferred from the analysis of ash time series: The 2015 reawakening of Cotopaxi volcano
Series title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2016.10.013
Volume 328
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Amsterdam
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 134
Last page 148
Country Ecuador
Other Geospatial Cotopaxi volcano