Three-dimensional displacements of a large volcano flank movement during the...

Schaefer, L. N., T. Wang, R. Escobar-Wolf, T. Oommen, Z. Lu, J. Kim, P. Lundgren, and G. P. Waite (2017), Three-dimensional displacements of a large volcano flank movement during the May 2010 eruptions at Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala, Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 135-142, doi:10.1002/2016GL071402.

Although massive flank failure is fairly common in the evolution of volcanoes, measurements of flank movement indicative of instability are rare. Here 3-D displacements from airborne radar amplitude images derived using an amplitude image pixel offset tracking technique show that the west and southwest flanks of Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala experienced large (~4 m), discrete landsliding that was ultimately aborted. Pixel offset tracking improved measurement recovery by nearly 50% over classic interferometric synthetic aperture radar techniques, providing unique measurements at the event. The 3-D displacement field shows that the flank moved coherently downslope along a complex failure surface involving both rotational and along-slope movement. Notably, the lack of continuous movement of the slide in the years leading up to the event emphasizes that active movement should not always be expected at volcanoes for which triggering factors (e.g., magmatic intrusions and eruptions) could precipitate sudden major flank instability.

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Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)