IPNA researchers generate ultra-realistic models of fractures in active volcanoes

The IPNA-CSIC Volcanology Group researcher Pablo J. González is taking part in an international project that seeks to understand the forming and evolution of faults in active volcanoes. The research applies innovative techniques for the characterisation of faults using pulses of laser light in order to obtain three-dimensional topographical models of very high spatial resolution (up to one centimetre). The aim is to study the role played by faults in the stability and volcanic activity of volcanoes.

The research project is coordinated by Fiona Couperthwaite, from Oregon State University (USA), and is funded by the National Geographic Society's Early Career Grants program for young researchers. This project has allowed them to carry out a data collection campaign on the Kīlauea volcano (Hawaii), one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. The faults of the Kīlauea are very active and make up a complex system about 6-8 kilometers long and with slopes between 10 and 20 meters. The peculiarity of these faults is that they have been formed in only 700 years, so their rate of displacement is much higher, between 10 and 100 times faster, than those found in other volcanic and even tectonic systems.

Used in combination with data obtained through other observation methods such as satellite image analysis, this new technology will allow researchers to understand the morphology and dynamics of faults at an unprecedented level of detail. These new models will provide a better insight into fault formation processes and their dynamics and will help to determine the role they play in the evolution of magmatic systems. This research could potentially be applied to other less active volcanic systems, such as those present in the Canary Islands, to improve understanding of their role in stability and to better describe their volcanic activity.