Deformation at Lava Lake Volcanoes: Lessons from Karthala

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Alison Rust, Camilla Owens and Juliet Biggs, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
To remain hot, permanent lava lakes require a continuous connection to a magma reservoir. Depending on the state of the conduit, changes in magma pressure could result in changes in the lake level (hydraulic head) or be accommodated elastically leading to surface deformation. Observing deformation is therefore key to understanding the plumbing system associated with lava lakes. However, the majority of the world’s lava lakes lie in difficult socio-economic or remote locations meaning that there are few ground-based observations, and it is often necessary to rely on satellite imagery.

Karthala volcano experienced a sequence of eruptions in April 2005, Nov 2005, May 2006 and Jan 2007. The first 3 took place at the Choungou Chahale crater, which typically contains either a water or lava lake; the last formed a new pit crater to the north. Satellite thermal imagery (Hirn et al, 2008) does not show an anomaly during the first eruption, which had a phreatomagmatic component, but large thermal anomalies, associated with an ephemeral lava lake were detected during the Nov 2005 and May 2006 eruptions. The final eruption produced a smaller anomaly attributed to a minor lava flow.

Here we present InSAR observations from 2004-2010. We find no significant deformation associated with the first three eruptions, but the January 2007 eruption was associated with ~25 cm of deformation near the volcano’s summit, characteristic of a dyke intrusion aligned with the northern rift zone. We also observe an unusual pattern deformation along the coast which may be attributed to rapid settling of soft sediment or recent volcanic deposits triggered by seismic activity.

We propose that the first eruption cleared the reservoir-summit connection and interacted with the water in Choungou Chahale. The following eruptions formed a lava lake, but without causing deformation. By the final eruption, the conduit had become blocked and magma intruded along the rift zone causing deformation but no thermal anomaly. The dyke intersected the surface at Choungou Chagnoumeni.

At Karthala volcano, no deformation is associated with lava lake activity, but when the conduit is blocked, magma intrudes along the rift zone causing deformation. This is in contrast to observations at Kileauea in Hawaii, where both lake level changes and deformation occur simultaneously.