Benchmarking and developing numerical Finite Element models of volcanic deformation

James Hickey, Joachim H Gottsmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
506 Downloads (Pure)


Volcanic deformation during an unrest episode can provide valuable insights into potential magmatic plumbing system dynamics. Paramount to this is a model linking the recorded ground movement to the causative source at depth. Most models employ analytical techniques due to their simplicity, but these are limited in their approach due to a number of necessary assumptions, and restricted to crude subsurface representations. We address this problem by providing guidelines and example model files to benchmark against a simple, analytical model with a numerical Finite Element approach using COMSOL Multiphysics. The boundary conditions should also be applicable to other Finite Element modeling packages. Then, due to the flexibility of the Finite Element method, this allows a progression of adding increasing complexities to reproduce the likely intricacies of the subsurface. We thus provide further guidelines and accompanying model files to incorporate subsurface heterogeneity, benchmarked viscoelastic rheology and temperature-dependent mechanics. In doing so, we highlight that setting up more integrated geodetic models is not particularly difficult and can alter inferred source characteristics and dynamics. The models are applied to Uturuncu volcano in southern Bolivia to demonstrate the approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-130
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • volcano deformation
  • finite element modeling
  • COMSOL multiphysics
  • volcano geodesy


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