Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Geology

Major Professor

Diana C. Roman

Co-Major Professor

H. L. Vacher

Keywords

dome-building eruptions, geoscience education, receiver functions, spreadsheet modules, stress field analysis, volcano tectonic earthquakes

Abstract

Forecasting eruptions using volcano seismology is a subject that affects the lives and property of millions of people around the world. However, there is still much to learn about the inner workings of volcanoes and how this relates to the chance of eruption. This dissertation attempts to increase the breadth of knowledge aimed at helping to understand when a volcano is likely to erupt and how large that eruption might be. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on a technique that uses changes in the local stress field beneath a volcano to determine the source of these changes and help forecast eruptions, while Chapter 4 focuses on a technique that shows great potential to be used to image magma chambers beneath volcanoes by using receiver functions.

In Chapters 2 and 3 the source mechanisms of shallow volcano-tectonic earthquakes recorded at Mount St. Helens are investigated by calculating hypocenter locations and fault plane solutions (FPS) for shallow earthquakes recorded during two eruptive periods (1981-1986 and 2004-2008) and two non-eruptive periods (1987-2004 and 2008-2011). FPS show a mixture of normal, reverse, and strike-slip faulting during all periods, with a sharp increase in strike-slip faulting observed in 1987-1997 and an increase in normal faulting between 1998 and 2004 and again on September 25-29, 2004. FPS P-axis orientations (a proxy for ó1) show a ~90° rotation with respect to regional ó1 (N23°E) during 1981-1986 and 2004-2008, bimodal orientations (~N-S and ~E-W) during 1987-2004, and bimodal orientations at ~N-E and ~S-W from 2008-2011. These orientations are believed to be due to pressurization accompanying the shallow intrusion and subsequent eruption of magma as domes during 1981-1986 and 2004-2008, and the buildup of pore pressure beneath a shallow seismogenic volume during 1987-2004 and 2008-2011.

Chapter 4 presents a study using receiver functions, which show the relative response of the Earth beneath a seismometer. Receiver functions are produced by deconvolving the vertical component of a seismogram from the horizontal components. The structure of the ground beneath the seismometer can then be inferred from the arrivals of P-to-S converted phases. Receiver functions were computed for the Katmai Volcanic Group, Alaska, at two seismic stations (KABU and KAKN) between January 2005 and July 2011. Receiver functions from station KABU clearly showed the arrival of the direct P-wave and the arrival from the Moho; however, receiver functions from station KAKN did not show the arrival from the Moho. In addition, changes in the amplitude and polarity of arrivals on receiver functions suggested that the structure beneath both KABU and KAKN was complex. Station KABU is likely underlain by dipping layers and/or anisotropy, while station KAKN may lie over a basin structure, an attenuating body, or some other highly complex structure. However, it is impossible to say for certain what the structure is under either station as the azimuthal coverage is poor and thus the structure is unable to be modeled.

This dissertation also includes a section (Chapter 6) on the assessment of spreadsheet-based modules used in two Introductory Physical Geology courses at the University of South Florida (USF). When faculty at USF began using spreadsheet-based modules to help teach students math and geology concepts the students complained that they spent more time learning how to use Excel than they did learning the concepts presented in the modules. To determine whether the sharp learning curve for Excel was hindering learning we divided the students in two Introductory Physical Geology courses into two groups: one group was given a set of modules which instructed them to use Excel for all calculations; the other group was simply told to complete the calculations but was not instructed what method to use. The results of the study show that whether or not the students used Excel had very little to do with the level of learning they achieved. Despite complaints that Excel was hindering their learning, students in the study attained high gains for both the math and geology concepts presented in the modules whether they used Excel or not.

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