Low-frequency earthquakes beneath Tullu Moye volcano, Ethiopia, reveal fluid pulses from shallow magma chamber

Tim Greenfield*, Derek Keir, J-Michael Kendall, Atalay Ayele

*Corresponding author for this work

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

19 Citations (Scopus)


The active magmatic processes beneath volcanoes in continental rifts is poorly understood. For example, until recently in the East African rift (EAR), the majority of the young volcanoes were thought to be inactive. More recent studies have shown that numerous volcanoes in the EAR are seismically active and deforming rapidly. However, an unambiguous sign of actively degassing magma hosted in shallow magma bodies has eluded most investigators. Here we present detailed analysis of the first low-frequency (LF) earthquake swarms to be observed in the Main Ethiopian Rift. The earthquakes locate to beneath Tullu Moye volcano and are directly related to the presence of a shallow magma body with a high fluid content. Using spectral modelling we show that the LF earthquakes appear to have low stress-drops (1–50 kPa) which we interpret in terms of low rupture velocities and high pore-fluid pressure. Careful relocation of the LF earthquakes place them approximately 4 km below the surface within one of two possible clusters. However, analysis of the correlation between earthquake waveforms show that each swarm contains a range of earthquake families and as such a diversity of earthquake source mechanisms. To explain these observations, we propose the seismicity is induced by H2O/CO2 fluid pulses from the shallow magma body into a highly fractured region. Fluid pulses cause high pore fluid pressures, which also cause the low rupture velocities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115782
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date30 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019


  • earthquake
  • fluid
  • low-frequency
  • Main Ethiopian Rift
  • Tullu Moye
  • volcano


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