Gottsmann, Joachim; Berrino, Giovanna; Rymer, Hazel and Williams-Jones, Glyn
Hazard assessment during caldera unrest at the Campi Flegrei, Italy: a contribution from gravity–height gradients.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 211(3-4)
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Hazard assessment and risk mitigation at restless calderas is only possible with adequate geophysical monitoring. We show here how detailed long-term micro-gravity and deformation surveys may contribute to hazard assessment at the Campi Flegrei caldera (CFc) in Italy by evaluating gravity–height change (Δg/Δh) gradients obtained during ground inflation and deflation between 1981 and 2001. Such gradients provide a framework from which to assess the likelihood and type of volcanic eruptions. Our new analysis of unrest at the CFc allows us to separate ‘noise’ during the gravity survey from the signal of deep-seated magmatic processes. This facilitates identification of the dynamics within the magma reservoir beneath the CFc. We found that magma replenishment during rapid uplift between 1982 and 1984 was insufficient, probably by one to two orders of magnitude, to trigger an eruption similar to the 1538 Monte Nuovo eruption, the most recent volcanic eruption within the CFc. Furthermore, our interpretation of Δg/Δh gradients for the ongoing period of deflation since 1984 suggests that eruptive volcanic activity is not imminent. Short periods of minor inflation associated with large gravity changes since 1981 are interpreted to reflect noise, which to some degree is probably due to sub-surface mass/density changes within shallow hydrothermal systems beneath the CFc, indicating no risk of eruptive volcanic activity. We propose that monitoring Δg/Δh gradients at restless calderas is essential as a caldera develops from a state of unrest to a state where volcanic eruptions have to be anticipated. Adoption of this method for the several tens of restless calderas world-wide will provide early warning of changes in or increase of activity at these supervolcanoes.
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