Modeling deformation, seismicity, and thermal anomalies driven by degassing during the 2005-2006 pre-eruptive unrest of Augustine Volcano, Alaska

Yan Zhan, Hélène Le Mével, Diana C. Roman, Társilo Girona, Patricia M. Gregg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the subsurface processes that generate volcanic unrest, including surface deformation, earthquakes, temperature increase, and gas emissions, is essential to improve the forecasting of volcanic eruptions. Volcanic gases exsolved from magma reservoirs can transfer heat towards the surface when the system is open, or pressurize the volcano and lead up to eruptions when the system is closed. Hence, the nature of the observed precursory signals is greatly dependent on whether exsolved volatiles accumulate or escape. In this study, we develop a two-dimensional finite element model to calculate the thermal and poroelastic responses of a volcano to gases that exsolve from depth and migrate to the surface through a pre-existing fractured conduit. This model is explored through a set of sensitivity tests to quantify the controls of gas fluxes and permeability on geophysical observables; and is used to interpret surface deformation (GPS), ground temperature, and seismicity data recorded before the 2006 eruption of Augustine volcano, Alaska, by utilizing the Ensemble Kalman Filter data assimilation technique and Coulomb stress calculations. Our results show that the permeable transfer of gas through a fractured conduit can yield a measurable thermal anomaly at the surface for at least one year before the eruption, consistent with ground- and remote sensing-based data. Moreover, gas flux increased about ten times around three months before the eruption, which might have accelerated hydrothermal alteration and reduced permeability of the conduit by several orders of magnitude, thus accumulating gases inside the volcanic edifice, generating surface deformation, and triggering volcano-tectonic earthquakes. Eventually, failure of the sealed pathways due to high overpressure led to the eruption. Multi-physical numerical models coupling gas flow with host rock deformation and heat transfer are useful tools to understand the triggering mechanisms of volcanic eruptions driven by volcanic gases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117524
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • Augustine
  • gas
  • multiphysics
  • numerical modeling
  • permeability
  • volcanic eruptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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