Shallow earthquake inhibits unrest near Chiles–Cerro Negro volcanoes, Ecuador–Colombian border

Susanna K Ebmeier*, John R Elliott, Jean Mathieu Nocquet, Juliet Biggs, Patricia Mothes, Paúl Jarrín, Marco Yépez, Santiago Aguaiza, Paul Lundgren, Sergey V. Samsonov

*Corresponding author for this work

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

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Magma movement or reservoir pressurisation can drive swarms of low-magnitude volcano-tectonic earthquakes, as well as occasional larger earthquakes (>M5) on local tectonic faults. Earthquakes >M5 near volcanoes are challenging to interpret in terms of evolving volcanic hazard, but are often associated with eruptions, and in some cases enhance the ascent of magma. We present geodetic observations from the first episode of unrest known to have occurred near Chiles and Cerro Negro de Mayasquer volcanoes on the Ecuador–Colombian border. A swarm of volcano-tectonic seismicity in October 2014 culminated in a Mw 5.6 earthquake south of the volcanoes. Satellite radar data spanning this earthquake detect displacements that are consistent with dextral oblique slip on a reverse fault at depths of 1.4–3.4 km within a SSW–NNE trending fault zone that last ruptured in 1886. GPS station measurements capture ∼20 days of uplift before the earthquake, probably originating from a pressure source ∼10–15 km south of Volcán Chiles, at depths exceeding 13 km. After the Mw 5.6 earthquake, uplift ceased and the rate of seismicity began to decrease. Potential mechanisms for this decline in activity include a decrease in the rate of movement of magma into the shallow crust, possibly caused by the restriction of fluid pathways. Our observations demonstrate that an earthquake triggered during volcanic unrest can inhibit magmatic processes, and have implications for the hazard interpretation of the interactions between earthquakes and volcanoes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-291
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date9 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2016


  • earthquake
  • GPS
  • InSAR
  • volcanic hazard


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