The 600 yr eruptive history of Villarrica Volcano (Chile) revealed by annually laminated lake sediments

Lake sediments contain valuable information about past volcanic and seismic events that have affected the lake catchment, and they provide unique records of the recurrence interval and magnitude of such events. This study uses a multilake and multiproxy analytical approach to obtain reliable and high-resolution records of past natural catastrophes from similar to 600-yr-old annually laminated (varved) lake sediment sequences extracted from two lakes, Villarrica and Calafquen, in the volcanically and seismically active Chilean Lake District. Using a combination of micro-X-ray fluorescence (mu XRF) scanning, microfacies analysis, grain-size analysis, color analysis, and magnetic-susceptibility measurements, we detect and characterize four different types of event deposits (lacustrine turbidites, tephra-fall layers, runoff cryptotephras, and lahar deposits) and produce a revised eruption record for Villarrica Volcano, which is unprecedented in its continuity and temporal resolution. Glass geochemistry and mineralogy also reveal deposits of eruptions from the more remote Carran-Los Venados volcanic complex, Quetrupillan Volcano, and the Huanquihue Group in the studied lake sediments. Time-series analysis shows 112 eruptions with a volcanic explosivity index (VEI) >= 2 from Villarrica Volcano in the last similar to 600 yr, of which at least 22 also produced lahars. This significantly expands our knowledge of the eruptive frequency of the volcano in this time window, compared to the previously known eruptive history from historical records. The last VEI >= 2 eruption of Villarrica Volcano occurred in 1991. Based on the last similar to 500 yr, for which we have a complete record from both lakes, we estimate the probability of the occurrence of future eruptions from Villarrica Volcano and statistically demonstrate that the probability of a 22 yr repose period (anno 2013) without VEI >= 2 eruptions is <= 1.7%. This new perspective on the recurrence interval of eruptions and historical lahar activity will help improve volcanic hazard assessments for this rapidly expanding tourist region, and it highlights how lake records can be used to significantly improve historical eruption records in areas that were previously uninhabited.


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Authors: Van Daele, M., Moernaut, J., Silversmit, G., Schmidt, S., Fontijn, K., Heirman, K., Vandoorne, W., De Clercq, M., Van Acker, J., Wolff, C., Pino, M., Urrutia, R., Roberts, S.J. ORCIDORCID record for S.J. Roberts, Vincze, L., De Batist, M.

On this site: Stephen Roberts
21 January, 2014
Geological Society of America Bulletin / 126
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