National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

Volcanic inflation measured in the caldera of Axial Seamount: Implications for magma supply and future eruptions

Nooner, S.L., and W.W. Chadwick, Jr.

Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 10(2), Q02002, doi: 10.1029/2008GC002315 (2009)

Since 2000, ambient seawater pressure has been precisely measured at five seafloor benchmarks inside the summit caldera at Axial Seamount to monitor volcanic inflation, using a remotely operated vehicle to deploy a mobile pressure recorder (MPR) in campaign-style surveys. Additionally, seawater pressure has been measured at the caldera center with multiyear deployments of continuously recording bottom pressure recorders (BPRs). These pressure data (converted to depth) are currently the only measurements of volcanic inflation at a submarine volcano. We show new data spanning 2004 to 2007 documenting steady inflation of 12.7 ± 0.4 cm/a at the caldera center. The spatial pattern of uplift is consistent with magma storage in a shallow reservoir underlying the caldera at a depth of ∼3.5 km, and the current uplift rate implies that magma is being supplied to the volcano at a rate of ∼7.5 × 106 m3/a. However, the supply rate immediately after the last eruption in 1998 was significantly higher, and the temporal pattern of uplift at Axial caldera appears to be governed by at least two processes occurring at very different time scales. We interpret the high uplift rates immediately following the 1998 eruption as either due to influx from one or more small satellite magma bodies or as the result of viscoelastic relaxation and/or poroelastic behavior of the crust surrounding the shallow magma chamber, and we present a numerical model which supports the latter interpretation. In contrast, we interpret the current lower uplift rate as due to a steady longterm magma supply from the mantle. This two component uplift pattern has not been observed on land volcanoes, suggesting that magma supply/storage processes beneath this ridge axis volcano differ from volcanoes on land (including Iceland). To reconstruct the uplift history at Axial, we fit the combined MPR and BPR data to two possible uplift scenarios, with which we forecast that the next eruption at Axial is likely to occur by about 2020, when most of the ∼3 m of deflation that occurred during the 1998 eruption will have been recovered.

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