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Relationships between volcano gravitational spreading and magma intrusion

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Volcano spreading, with its characteristic sector grabens, is caused by outward flow of weak substrata due to gravitational loading. This process is now known to affect many present-day edifices. A volcano intrusive complex can form an important component of an edifice and may induce deformation while it develops. Such intrusions are clearly observed in ancient eroded volcanoes, like the Scottish Palaeocene centres, or in geophysical studies such as in La Réunion, or inferred from large calderas, such as in Hawaii, the Canaries or Galapagos volcanoes. Volcano gravitational spreading and intrusive complex emplacement may act simultaneously within an edifice. We explore the coupling and interactions between these two processes. We use scaled analogue models, where an intrusive complex made of Golden syrup is emplaced within a granular model volcano based on a substratum of a ductile silicone layer overlain by a brittle granular layer. We model specifically the large intrusive complex growth and do not model small-scale and short-lived events, such as dyke intrusion, that develop above the intrusive complex. The models show that the intrusive complex develops in continual competition between upward bulging and lateral gravity spreading. The brittle substratum strongly controls the deformation style, the intrusion shape and also controls the balance between intrusive complex spreading and ductile layer-related gravitational spreading. In the models, intrusive complex emplacement and spreading produce similar structures to those formed during volcano gravitational spreading alone (i.e. grabens, folds, en échelon fractures). Therefore, simple analysis of fault geometry and fault kinetic indicators is not sufficient to distinguish gravitational from intrusive complex spreading, except when the intrusive complex is eccentric from the volcano centre. However, the displacement fields obtained for (1) a solely gravitational spreading volcano and for (2) a gravitational spreading volcano with a growing and spreading intrusive complex are very different. Consequently, deformation fields (like those obtained from geodetic monitoring) can give a strong indication of the presence of a spreading intrusive complex. We compare the models with field observations and geophysical evidence on active volcanoes such as La Réunion Island (Indian Ocean), Ometepe Island (Nicaragua) and eroded volcanic remnants such as Ardnamurchan (Scotland) and suggest that a combination between gravitational and intrusive complex spreading has been active.

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Tate and Lyle kindly provided us with all the Golden syrup we wished for. The work was partially supported by ANR 06-CATT-013-01 grant VOLKARISK. The authors acknowledge the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that greatly help to improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Audray Delcamp.

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Delcamp, A., van Wyk de Vries, B., James, M.R. et al. Relationships between volcano gravitational spreading and magma intrusion. Bull Volcanol 74, 743–765 (2012).

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  • Volcano
  • Intrusive complex
  • Spreading
  • Gravitational spreading
  • Rift zone
  • Analogue models