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Imaging short period variations in lava flux

Abstract

Short period (e.g. <1 h) variations in lava effusion rate have been detected previously on Mount Etna, Sicily, but the causes and effects of such changes are poorly understood because of difficulties in obtaining suitably high frequency measurements over long periods. Here, we report short period flux variations in active lava flows, recorded in dense time series imagery over a 7-night period using modified remote trail cameras. The sequences of night-time images show significant pulses of enhanced incandescence, interpreted as short period increases in lava flux, travelling down-channel at velocities of ∼10–20 m min−1. Pulse generation decreased from an average of one pulse per hour on the first night to approximately one per night within a few nights. Effusion rate changes on these timescales are considered to reflect instabilities in magma ascent and, consequently, could provide insight into subsurface flow processes.

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the Royal Society and through project INGV-DPC 2007–2009 “V3-LAVA”. This research has benefited from funding provided by the Italian Presidenza del Cosiglio dei Ministri-Dipartimento della Protezione Civile (DPC). Scientific papers funded by the DPC do not represent its official opinion and policies. We are grateful for constructive reviews from Tim Orr and John Bailey.

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Correspondence to Mike R. James.

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Editorial responsibility: P. Delmelle

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ESM3 (MPG 742 kb)

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ESM5 (MPG 746 kb)

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ESM10 (AVI 4029 kb)

ESM11 (MPG 784 kb)

ESM12 (AVI 4009 kb)

ESM13 (MPG 818 kb)

ESM14 (AVI 4236 kb)

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James, M.R., Pinkerton, H. & Ripepe, M. Imaging short period variations in lava flux. Bull Volcanol 72, 671–676 (2010) doi:10.1007/s00445-010-0354-y

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Key words

  • Lava
  • Effusion rate
  • Mt. Etna
  • Unsteady flow
  • Time-lapse imaging
  • Pulse