Stable and unstable phases of elevated seismic activity at the persistently restless Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

Mel Rodgers, Diana C. Roman, Halldor Geirsson, Peter LaFemina, Stephen R. McNutt, Angelica Muñoz, Virginia Tenorio

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25 Scopus citations


Telica Volcano, Nicaragua, is a persistently restless volcano with daily seismicity rates that can vary by orders of magnitude without apparent connection to eruptive activity. Low-frequency (LF) events are dominant and peaks in seismicity rate show little correlation with eruptive episodes, presenting a challenge for seismic monitoring and eruption forecasting. A short period seismic station (TELN) has been operated on Telica's summit since 1993, and in 2010 the installation of a six-station broadband seismic and eleven-station continuous GPS network (the TESAND network) was completed to document in detail the seismic characteristics of a persistently restless volcano. Between our study period of November 2009 and May 2013, over 400,000 events were detected at the TESAND summit station (TBTN), with daily event rates ranging from 5 to 1400. We present spectral analyses and classifications of ~. 200,000 events recorded by the TESAND network between April 2010 and March 2013, and earthquake locations for a sub-set of events between July 2010 and February 2012. In 2011 Telica erupted in a series of phreatic vulcanian explosions. Six months before the 2011 eruption, we observe a sudden decrease in LF events concurrent with a swarm of high-frequency (HF) events, followed by a decline in overall event rates, which reached a minimum at the eruption onset. We observe repeated periods of high and low seismicity rates and suggest these changes in seismicity represent repeated transitions between open-system and closed-system degassing. We suggest that these short- and long-term transitions between open to closed-system degassing form part of a long-term pattern of stable vs. unstable phases at Telica. Stable phases are characterised by steady high-rate seismicity and represent stable open-system degassing, whereas unstable phases are characterised by highly variable seismicity rates and represent repeated transitions from open to closed-system degassing, where the system is unable to sustain steady open-system degassing. These observations have implications for seismic monitoring at persistently restless volcanoes as the recognition of unstable seismic phases may indicate the open-system degassing process cannot be sustained and explosions are likely.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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