An overview of recent (1988 to 2014) caldera unrest: knowledge and perspectives

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 08:30
2002 (Moscone West)
Valerio Acocella, Univ. Roma Tre, Rome, Italy
Calderas are among the most active and dangerous volcanoes. Caldera unrest is defined by enhanced seismicity, gravity changes, surface deformation and degassing. Although much caldera unrest does not lead to an eruption, every eruption is preceded by an unrest episode. Therefore, the proper description of unrest and the forecast of its possible outcome is a timely and challenging task. Here we review the best known unrest at calderas from 1988 to 2014, building on previous work and propose an updated database. Where established, the root cause for unrest is always magmatic; none was purely hydrothermal or tectonic. An interpretive classification of unrest invokes two spectra – compositional (mafic to felsic) and the state of magma conduits feeding from the magma reservoir(s) to the surface (from fully plugged, through semi-plugged, to open). Magma and gas in open conduits can rise and erupt freely; magma in semi-plugged conduits erupts less frequently, yet still allows some gas to escape; plugged conduits allow neither magma nor gas to escape. Unrest in mafic calderas is subtler, less pronounced and repeated, especially with open systems, ensuring the continuous, aseismic and moderate release of magma. Plugged felsic calderas erupt infrequently, anticipated by isolated, short and seismically active unrest. Semi-plugged felsic calderas also erupt infrequently and are restless over decades or centuries, with uplift, seismicity and degassing and, on the longer-term, resurgence, suggesting repeated stalled intrusions. Finally, the expected advances in better understanding caldera unrest are discussed.