Gravitational sliding of the Mt. Etna massif along a sloping basement

Murray, John B.; van Wyk de Vries, Benjamin; Pitty, Andy; Sargent, Phil and Wooller, Luke (2018). Gravitational sliding of the Mt. Etna massif along a sloping basement. Bulletin of Volcanology, 80, article no. 40.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-018-1209-1

Abstract

Geological field evidence and laboratory modelling indicate that volcanoes constructed on slopes slide downhill. If this happens on an active volcano, then the movement will distort deformation data and thus potentially compromise interpretation. Our recent GPS measurements demonstrate that the entire edifice of Mt. Etna is sliding to the ESE, the overall direction of slope of its complex, rough sedimentary basement. We report methods of discriminating the sliding vector from other deformation processes and of measuring its velocity, which averaged 14 mm year−1 during four intervals between 2001 and 2012. Though sliding of one sector of a volcano due to flank instability is widespread and well-known, this is the first time basement sliding of an entire active volcano has been directly observed. This is important because the geological record shows that such sliding volcanoes are prone to devastating sector collapse on the downslope side, and whole volcano migration should be taken into account when assessing future collapse hazard. It is also important in eruption forecasting, as the sliding vector needs to be allowed for when interpreting deformation events that take place above the sliding basement within the superstructure of the active volcano, as might occur with dyke intrusion or inflation/deflation episodes.

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