Transient deformation associated with explosive eruption measured at Masaya volcano (Nicaragua) using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar

K. J. Stephens*, S. K. Ebmeier, N. K. Young, J. Biggs

*Corresponding author for this work

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

14 Citations (Scopus)
322 Downloads (Pure)


Deformation caused by processes within a volcanic conduit are localised, transient, and therefore challenging to measure. However, observations of such deformation are important because they provide insight into conditions preceding explosive activity, and are important for hazard assessment.Here, we present measurements of low magnitude, transient deformation covering an area of ∼4km2 at Masaya volcano spanning a period of explosive eruptions (30th April-17th May 2012). Radial uplift of duration 24days and peak displacements of a few millimeters occurred in the month before the eruption, but switched to subsidence ∼27days before the onset of the explosive eruption on 30th of April. Uplift resumed during, and continued for ∼16days after the end of the explosive eruption period. We use a finite element modelling approach to investigate a range of possible source geometries for this deformation, and find that the changes in pressurisation of a conduit 450m below the surface vent (radius 160m and length 700m), surrounded by a halo of brecciated material with a Young's modulus of 15GPa, gave a good fit to the InSAR displacements. We propose that the pre-eruptive deformation sequence at Masaya is likely to have been caused by the movement of magma through a constriction within the shallow conduit system.Although measuring displacements associated with conduit processes remains challenging, new high resolution InSAR datasets will increasingly allow the measurement of transient and lower magnitude deformation signals, improving the method's applicability for observing transitions between volcanic activity characterised by an open and a closed conduit system.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Early online date17 May 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 May 2017


  • Ephemeral lava lake
  • InSAR
  • Masaya
  • Pre-eruptive subsidence
  • Transient deformation


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