Very long period conduit oscillations induced by rockfalls at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
By:  and 



Eruptive activity at the summit of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, beginning in 2010 and continuing to the present time is characterized by transient outgassing bursts accompanied by very long period (VLP) seismic signals triggered by rockfalls from the vent walls impacting a lava lake in a pit within the Halemaumau pit crater. We use raw data recorded with an 11-station broadband network to model the source mechanism of signals accompanying two large rockfalls on 29 August 2012 and two smaller average rockfalls obtained by stacking over all events with similar waveforms to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. To determine the source centroid location and source mechanism, we minimize the residual error between data and synthetics calculated by the finite difference method for a point source embedded in a homogeneous medium that takes topography into account. We apply a new waveform inversion method that accounts for the contributions from both translation and tilt in horizontal seismograms through the use of Green's functions representing the seismometer response to translation and tilt ground motions. This method enables a robust description of the source mechanism over the period range 1–1000 s. The VLP signals associated with the rockfalls originate in a source region ∼1 km below the eastern perimeter of the Halemaumau pit crater. The observed waveforms are well explained by a simple volumetric source with geometry composed of two intersecting cracks including an east striking crack (dike) dipping 80° to the north, intersecting a north striking crack (another dike) dipping 65° to the east. Each rockfall is marked by a similar step-like inflation trailed by decaying oscillations of the volumetric source, attributed to the efficient coupling at the source centroid location of the pressure and momentum changes induced by the rock mass impacting the top of the lava column. Assuming a simple lumped parameter representation of the shallow magmatic system, the observed pressure and volume variations can be modeled with the following attributes: rockfall volume (200–4500 m3), length of magma column (120–210 m), diameter of pipe connecting the Halemaumau pit crater to the subjacent dike system (6 m), average thickness of the two underlying dikes (3–6 m), and effective magma viscosity (30–210 Pa s). Most rockfalls occur during episodes of sustained deflation of the Kilauea summit. The mass loss rate in the shallow magmatic system is estimated to be 1400–15,000 kg s−1 based on measurements of the temporal variation of VLP period in the two large rockfalls that occurred on 29 August 2012.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Very long period conduit oscillations induced by rockfalls at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
DOI 10.1002/jgrb.50376
Volume 118
Issue 10
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher AGU
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 20 p.
First page 5352
Last page 5371
Country United States
State Hawaii
Other Geospatial Kilauea Volcano
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