Three Distinct Regimes of Volcanic Tremor Associated with Eruptions of Shishaldin Volcano, Alaska, 1999

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Alaska, Shishaldin Volcano, Volcanic tremor

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Tremor signals associated with the eruption of Shishaldin Volcano on 19 and 23 April 1999 were the strongest recorded anywhere in the Aleutian Arc by the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) in its 10-year history. Reduced displacements (DR) reached 23 cm2 on 19 April and 43 cm2 on 23 April. During the activity, DR and spectral data with a frequency resolution of 0.1 Hz were computed and put on the World Wide Web every 10 min. These data are analyzed here. The general temporal patterns of seismicity of these eruption events were similar, but the eruptions and their effects quite different. The 19 April event is known to have culminated in a sub-Plinian phase, which ejected ash to an altitude of 16 km. Despite higher amplitudes and the largest hotspot from satellite data, the 23 April event produced little ash reaching only 6 km altitude. For several hours prior to the sub-Plinian phase on 19 April, tremor with a peak frequency of 1.3 Hz intensified. During the sub-Plinian phase the peak frequency increased to 4–8 Hz. However, in 15 h after the eruption, three episodes of stronger tremor occurred with a lower 1.0-Hz peak, alternating with weaker tremor with a 1.3-Hz peak. These transitions correspond to DR=~8 cm2. Although these strong tremor episodes produced higher DR levels than the sub-Plinian phase, data from a pressure sensor show that only strong Strombolian explosions occurred. The suite of observations suggests three distinct tremor regimes that may correspond to slug flow, bubbly flow, and sustained strong eruptions, or a cyclic change in source parameters (e.g., geometry, sound speed, or ascent rate). This behavior occurred at Shishaldin only during the April 1999 sequence, and we are not aware of similar behavior at other volcanoes.

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Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 64, issue 8, p. 535-547