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Concept: Pacific Ring of Fire


The global flux of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted by passive volcanic degassing is a key parameter that constrains the fluxes of other volcanic gases (including carbon dioxide, CO2) and toxic trace metals (e.g., mercury). It is also a required input for atmospheric chemistry and climate models, since it impacts the tropospheric burden of sulfate aerosol, a major climate-forcing species. Despite its significance, an inventory of passive volcanic degassing is very difficult to produce, due largely to the patchy spatial and temporal coverage of ground-based SO2 measurements. We report here the first volcanic SO2 emissions inventory derived from global, coincident satellite measurements, made by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite in 2005-2015. The OMI measurements permit estimation of SO2 emissions from over 90 volcanoes, including new constraints on fluxes from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Aleutian Islands, the Kuril Islands and Kamchatka. On average over the past decade, the volcanic SO2 sources consistently detected from space have discharged a total of ~63 kt/day SO2 during passive degassing, or ~23 ± 2 Tg/yr. We find that ~30% of the sources show significant decadal trends in SO2 emissions, with positive trends observed at multiple volcanoes in some regions including Vanuatu, southern Japan, Peru and Chile.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Sulfur, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, Volcano, Sulfur dioxide, Pacific Ring of Fire


The subduction zone in Northern Chile is a well identified seismic gap that last ruptured in 1877. The Mw 8.1 Iquique earthquake of 1 April 2014 broke a highly coupled portion of this gap. To understand the seismicity preceding this event, we studied the location and mechanisms of the foreshocks and computed GPS time series at stations located on-shore. Seismicity off-shore Iquique started to increase in January 2014. After 16 March several Mw > 6 events occurred near the low coupled zone. These events migrated northward for about 50 km until the 1 April earthquake occurred. On 16 March on-shore cGPS stations detected a westward motion that we model as a slow slip event situated in the same area where the mainshock occurred.

Concepts: Earth, Geology, Earthquake, Earthquake engineering, Seismic wave, Seismology, Subduction, Pacific Ring of Fire


The Mount Merapi volcanic eruption in October 2010 was one of Indonesia’s largest and most recent natural disasters. A cross-sectional study was undertaken to measure the psychosocial impact of the eruption on survivors in two locations in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. The Impact of Event Scale Revised was used to assess participants' symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder responses and demographic characteristics were compared in both locations by conducting bivariate analysis using Mann-Whitney and t tests. The relative contributions of demographic variables and psychosocial impact were examined using multiple linear regression analyses. Two years after the eruption, survivors from the area closest to the eruption had significantly higher Impact of Event Scale Revised scores than those in the comparison area. In particular, females, adults between the ages of 18 and 59, and people who owned their own home experienced the highest levels of psychosocial impact. Nurses and other health professionals need to be aware of the impact of natural disasters on survivors and develop interventions to help people adjust to the psychosocial impact of these events.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Linear regression, Volcano, Central Java, Pacific Ring of Fire, Decade Volcanoes, Lava dome, Mount Merapi


In situ video observations and sediment core samplings were performed at two hadal sites in the Japan Trench on July, 2011, four months after the Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Video recordings documented dense nepheloid layers extending ~30-50 m above the sea bed. At the trench axis, benthic macrofauna was absent and dead organisms along with turbid downslope current were observed. The top 31 cm of sediment in the trench axis revealed three recent depositions events characterized by elevated (137)Cs levels and alternating sediment densities. At 4.9 km seaward from the trench axis, little deposition was observed but the surface sediment contained (134)Cs from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster. We argue that diatom blooms observed by remote sensing facilitated rapid deposition of (134)Cs to hadal environment and the aftershocks induced successive sediment disturbances and maintained dense nepheloid layers in the trench even four months after the mainshock.

Concepts: Density, Lake, Observation, Japan, Earthquake, Remote sensing, Diatom, Pacific Ring of Fire


Earthquakes far from tectonic plate boundaries generally exploit ancient faults, but not all intraplate faults are equally active. The North American Great Plains exemplify such intraplate earthquake localization, with both natural and induced seismicity generally clustered in discrete zones. Here we use seismic velocity, gravity and topography to generate a 3D lithospheric density model of the region; subsequent finite-element modelling shows that seismicity focuses in regions of high-gravity-derived deviatoric stress. Furthermore, predicted principal stress directions generally align with those observed independently in earthquake moment tensors and borehole breakouts. Body forces therefore appear to control the state of stress and thus the location and style of intraplate earthquakes in the central United States with no influence from mantle convection or crustal weakness necessary. These results show that mapping where gravitational body forces encourage seismicity is crucial to understanding and appraising intraplate seismic hazard.

Concepts: Earth, United States, Plate tectonics, North America, Earthquake, Subduction, Pacific Ring of Fire, Intraplate earthquake


Mount St Helens is the most active volcano within the Cascade arc; however, its location is unusual because it lies 50 km west of the main axis of arc volcanism. Subduction zone thermal models indicate that the down-going slab is decoupled from the overriding mantle wedge beneath the forearc, resulting in a cold mantle wedge that is unlikely to generate melt. Consequently, the forearc location of Mount St Helens raises questions regarding the extent of the cold mantle wedge and the source region of melts that are responsible for volcanism. Here using, high-resolution active-source seismic data, we show that Mount St Helens sits atop a sharp lateral boundary in Moho reflectivity. Weak-to-absent PmP reflections to the west are attributed to serpentinite in the mantle-wedge, which requires a cold hydrated mantle wedge beneath Mount St Helens (<∼700 °C). These results suggest that the melt source region lies east towards Mount Adams.

Concepts: Earth, Earthquake, Volcanic arc, Pacific Ring of Fire, Cascade Range, Cascade Volcanoes, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams


Mantle plumes are buoyant upwellings of hot rock that transport heat from Earth’s core to its surface, generating anomalous regions of volcanism that are not directly associated with plate tectonic processes. The best-studied example is the Hawaiian-Emperor chain, but the emergence of two sub-parallel volcanic tracks along this chain, Loa and Kea, and the systematic geochemical differences between them have remained unexplained. Here we argue that the emergence of these tracks coincides with the appearance of other double volcanic tracks on the Pacific plate and a recent azimuthal change in the motion of the plate. We propose a three-part model that explains the evolution of Hawaiian double-track volcanism: first, mantle flow beneath the rapidly moving Pacific plate strongly tilts the Hawaiian plume and leads to lateral separation between high- and low-pressure melt source regions; second, the recent azimuthal change in Pacific plate motion exposes high- and low-pressure melt products as geographically distinct volcanoes, explaining the simultaneous emergence of double-track volcanism across the Pacific; and finally, secondary pyroxenite, which is formed as eclogite melt reacts with peridotite, dominates the low-pressure melt region beneath Loa-track volcanism, yielding the systematic geochemical differences observed between Loa- and Kea-type lavas. Our results imply that the formation of double-track volcanism is transitory and can be used to identify and place temporal bounds on plate-motion changes.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, New Zealand, Volcano, Basalt, Mantle, Mantle plume, Pacific Ring of Fire


Monitoring of earthquake faults and volcanoes contributes to our understanding of their dynamic mechanisms and to our ability to predict future earthquakes and volcanic activity. We report here on spatial and temporal variations of seismic velocity around the seismogenic fault of the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake [moment magnitude (Mw) 7.0] based on ambient seismic noise. Seismic velocity near the rupture faults and Aso volcano decreased during the earthquake. The velocity reduction near the faults may have been due to formation damage, a change in stress state, and an increase in pore pressure. Further, we mapped the post-earthquake fault-healing process. The largest seismic velocity reduction observed at Aso volcano during the earthquake was likely caused by pressurized volcanic fluids, and the large increase in seismic velocity at the volcano’s magma body observed ~3 months after the earthquake may have been a response to depressurization caused by the eruption. This study demonstrates the usefulness of continuous monitoring of faults and volcanoes.

Concepts: Earth, United States, Earthquake, Volcano, Magma, Mantle plume, Pacific Ring of Fire, Kagoshima Prefecture


On 1 April 2014, Northern Chile was struck by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake following a protracted series of foreshocks. The Integrated Plate Boundary Observatory Chile monitored the entire sequence of events, providing unprecedented resolution of the build-up to the main event and its rupture evolution. Here we show that the Iquique earthquake broke a central fraction of the so-called northern Chile seismic gap, the last major segment of the South American plate boundary that had not ruptured in the past century. Since July 2013 three seismic clusters, each lasting a few weeks, hit this part of the plate boundary with earthquakes of increasing peak magnitudes. Starting with the second cluster, geodetic observations show surface displacements that can be associated with slip on the plate interface. These seismic clusters and their slip transients occupied a part of the plate interface that was transitional between a fully locked and a creeping portion. Leading up to this earthquake, the b value of the foreshocks gradually decreased during the years before the earthquake, reversing its trend a few days before the Iquique earthquake. The mainshock finally nucleated at the northern end of the foreshock area, which skirted a locked patch, and ruptured mainly downdip towards higher locking. Peak slip was attained immediately downdip of the foreshock region and at the margin of the locked patch. We conclude that gradual weakening of the central part of the seismic gap accentuated by the foreshock activity in a zone of intermediate seismic coupling was instrumental in causing final failure, distinguishing the Iquique earthquake from most great earthquakes. Finally, only one-third of the gap was broken and the remaining locked segments now pose a significant, increased seismic hazard with the potential to host an earthquake with a magnitude of >8.5.

Concepts: Plate tectonics, Part, South America, Earthquake, Earthquake engineering, Seismology, Subduction, Pacific Ring of Fire


The notorious ~60° bend separating the Hawaiian and Emperor chains marked a prominent change in the motion of the Pacific plate at ~47 Ma (million years ago), but the origin of that change remains an outstanding controversy that bears on the nature of major plate reorganizations. Lesser known but equally significant is a conundrum posed by the pre-bend (~80 to 47 Ma) motion of the Pacific plate, which, according to conventional plate models, was directed toward a fast-spreading ridge, in contradiction to tectonic forcing expectations. Using constraints provided by seismic tomography, paleomagnetism, and continental margin geology, we demonstrate that two intraoceanic subduction zones spanned the width of the North Pacific Ocean in Late Cretaceous through Paleocene time, and we present a simple plate tectonic model that explains how those intraoceanic subduction zones shaped the ~80 to 47 Ma kinematic history of the Pacific realm and drove a major plate reorganization.

Concepts: Earth, United States, Plate tectonics, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Convergent boundary, Pacific Ring of Fire