Modelling Gravimetric Fluctuations due to Hydrological Processes in Active Volcanic Settings

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:00 PM
Brioch Hemmings, Joachim Gottsmann and Fiona Whitaker, University of Bristol, School of Earth Sciences, Bristol, United Kingdom
Both static and dynamic gravimetric surveys are widely used to monitor magmatic processes in active volcanic settings. However, attributing residual gravimetric signals solely to magma movement can result in misdiagnosis of a volcano’s pre-eruptive state and incorrect assessment of hazard. The relative contribution of magmatic and aqueous fluids to integrated gravimetric and geodetic data has become an important topic for debate, particularly in restless caldera systems. Groundwater migration driven by volcanically-induced pressure changes, and groundwater mass fluctuations associated with seasonal and inter-annual variations in recharge may also contribute to measured gravity changes.

Here we use numerical models to explore potential gravimetric signals associated with fundamental hydrological processes, focusing on variations in recharge and hydrogeological properties. TOUGH2 simulations demonstrate the significance of groundwater storage within a thick unsaturated zone (up to 100 m). Changes are dominantly in response to inter-annual recharge variations and can produce measurable absolute gravity variations of several 10s of μgal. Vadose zone storage and the rate of response to recharge changes depend on the hydrological properties. Porosity, relative and absolute permeability and capillary pressure conditions all affect the amplitude and frequency of modelled gravity time series. Spatial variations in hydrologic properties and importantly, hydrological recharge, can significantly affect the phase and amplitude of recorded gravity signals.

Our models demonstrate the potential for an appreciable hydrological component within gravimetric measurements on volcanic islands. Characterisation of hydrological processes within a survey area may be necessary to robustly interpret gravity signals in settings with significant recharge fluctuations, a thick vadose zone and spatially variable hydrological properties. Such modelling enables further exploration of feedbacks between volcanic and hydrological systems, and the geophysical signals used to monitor them.