Soufrière Hills eruption, Montserrat, 1995 - 1997: Volcanic earthquake locations and fault plane solutions

W. P. Aspinall*, A. D. Miller, L. L. Lynch, J. L. Latchman, R. C. Stewart, R. A. White, J. A. Power

*Corresponding author for this work

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

109 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A total of 9242 seismic events, recorded since the start of the eruption on Montserrat in July 1995, have been uniformly relocated with station travel-time corrections. Early seismicity was generally diffuse under southern Montserrat, and mostly restricted to depths less than 7 km. However, a NE-SW alignment of epicentres beneath the NE flank of the volcano emerged in one swarm of volcano-tectonic earthquakes (VTs), and later nests of VT hypocentres developed beneath the volcano and at a separated location, under St. George's Hill. The overall spatial distribution of hypocentres suggests a minimum depth of about 5 km for any substantial magma body. Activity associated with the opening of a conduit to the surface became increasingly shallow, with foci concentrated below the crater and, after dome building started in Fall 1995, VTs diminished and repetitive swarms of 'hybrid' seismic events became predominant. By late-1996, as magma effusion rates escalated, most seismic events were originating within a volume about 2 km diameter which extended up to the surface from only about 3 km depth - the diminution of shear failure earthquakes suggests the pathway for magma discharge had become effectively unconstricted. Individual and composite fault plane solutions have been determined for a few larger earthquakes. We postulate that localised extensional stress conditions near the linear VT activity, due to interaction with stresses in the overriding lithospheric plate, may encourage normal fault growth and promote sector weaknesses in the volcano.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3397-3400
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume25
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 1998

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