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New research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) reveals that sharp variations of the surface of volcanoes can affect data collected by monitoring equipment.
The surfaces of many volcanoes feature steep walls or cliffs. These are often part of calderas—large craters left by a previous collapse—but can also be caused by the volcano 'rifting' - or splitting—or sector collapse, when part of the side of the volcano slides away.
Effect - Variations - Landscape - Studies - Surface
However, the effect of these variations in landscape has not previously been considered in studies of surface deformation in volcanic regions, even though they are a common feature.
In addition, monitoring equipment such as tiltmeters are usually placed on caldera rims as they are often more accessible, especially if the caldera is lake-filled. Tiltmeters measure the horizontal gradient of vertical displacement and can emphasise small variations that go unnoticed using other monitoring methods.
Researchers - UEA - US - Geological - Survey
Now researchers from UEA, the US Geological Survey and University of Bristol have found that features such as cliffs can cause a reversal in the pattern of deformation, leading to misleading data being recorded by the tiltmeters. Their findings are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The team studied Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, which erupted last April, resulting in a summit collapse that has reshaped the cliffs around the caldera. It now has near-vertical cliffs of up to 500 metres and terrace-like steps of 50-150 metres.
Researchers - Structures - Impact - Tilt - Network
The researchers say these new structures may have an impact on tilt measured at the existing network of tiltmeters and have implications for any new monitoring equipment that is installed.
Lead researcher Dr. Jessica Johnson, lecturer in geophysics at UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: "Tilt measurements have played a significant role in the knowledge of volcanic processes on at least 40 volcanoes worldwide. Our analysis highlights the importance of considering surface features when assessing tilt...
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