Predicting Supervolcano Eruptions

Posted on 05.02.2018
Prof Gregg and PhD candidate Haley Cabaniss

PhD candidate Haley Cabaniss, Prof. Trish Gregg and collaborator Prof. Eric Grosfils publish a paper in Geophysical Research Letters that lifts the lid on the precursors to supervolcano eruptions. In a new geodynamic modeling investigation entitled ‘The Role of Tectonic Stress in Triggering Large Silicic Caldera Eruptions’ (see online here), Geology PhD candidate Haley Cabaniss finds that large caldera-forming volcanoes, such as Yellowstone and Taupo (New Zealand), are only mechanically stable on short timescales of hundreds to thousands of years during active rejuvenation. The results, published this month in Geophysical Research Letters, provide important constraints on the amount of time necessary to recharge and erupt large, supervolcano size reservoirs from the first indication of magmatic activity. Understanding how these explosive eruptions are triggered is critical for forecasting volcanic activity at the world’s largest volcanoes and mitigating their hazards. Haley is a 3rd year PhD student in Prof. Trish Gregg’s group, and the study was conducted in collaboration with Eric Grosfils (Pomona College).

 Cabaniss and Greg Photo

PhD candidate Haley Cabaniss (left) and Professor Trish Gregg (right)

theoretical magma reservoir beneath Taupo Caldera

The 3D model set-up, showing a theoretical magma reservoir beneath Taupo Caldera, New Zealand. The investigation focused on the effects of tectonic stress on magma reservoir stability. Taupo Volcanic Zone, which sits in an extensional back arc setting, was modeled to test the predictions of eruption recurrence.