SO2 degassing from Turrialba Volcano linked to seismic signatures during the period 2008-2012
Journal article, 2014
wIn 1996, after 150 years of relative calm, Turrialba Volcano was reawakening. A visible plume and serious damage to surrounding vegetation due to acid rain are the most obvious signals. As part of the Network for Observation of Volcanic and Atmospheric Change project, four gas-monitoring stations were initially installed on the west flank of the volcano with the purpose of measuring sulphur dioxide emissions during this period of increased activity using the scanning-differential optical absorption spectroscopy technique. We present here the results of semicontinuous gas flux measurements over a period of 5 years (from 2008 to 2012), providing a novel data set that documents a relatively rapid increase in SO2 fluxes from around 350 t day(-1) to around 4,000 t day(-1) leading up to an eruptive period, followed by a gradual return to the former baseline values. Gas flux data were also compared with seismic data for selected periods of interest, providing insights into the link between degassing and seismicity. The most important result from this comparison is the identification of an inflexion point in the gas emissions followed by a clearly increasing trend in seismic activity, distinguishable 6 months prior to a phreatic eruptive event that occurred on 5 January 2010. This signal can be interpreted as a possible indicator of future eruptive events. Monitoring of SO2 thus complements seismic monitoring as a forecasting tool for eruptive events. Such monitoring is critical considering the proximity of Turrialba to the Central Valley, an area inhabited by more than 50 % of Costa Rica's population.