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Journal Articles Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research Year : 2001

Sub-surface structures and collapse mechanisms of summit pit craters

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Olivier Roche
Timothy H. Druitt


Summit pit craters are found in many types of volcanoes and are generally thought to be the product of collapse into an underpressured reservoir caused by magma withdrawal. We investigate the mechanisms and structures associated with summit pit crater formation by scaled analogue experiments and make comparisons with natural examples. Models use a sand plaster mixture as analogue rock over a cylinder of silicone simulating an underpressured magma reservoir. Experiments are carried out using different roof aspect ratios (roof thickness/roof width) of 0.2±2. They reveal two basic collapse mechanisms, dependant on the roof aspect ratio. One occurs at low aspect ratios (#1), as illustrated by aspect ratios of 0.2 and 1. Outward dipping reverse faults initiated at the silicone margins propagates through the entire roof thickness and cause subsidence of a coherent block. Collapse along the reverse faults is accommodated by marginal¯exure of the block and tension fractures at the surface (aspect ratio of 0.2) or by the creation of inward dipping normal faults delimiting a terrace (aspect ratio of 1). At an aspect ratio of 1, overhanging pit walls are the surface expressions of the reverse faults. Experiments at high aspect ratio (.1.2) reveal a second mechanism. In this case, collapse occurs by stopping, which propagates upwards by a complex pattern of both reverse faults and tension fractures. The initial underground collapse is restricted to a zone above the reservoir and creates a cavity with a stable roof above it. An intermediate mechanism occurs at aspect ratios of 1.1±1.2. In this case, stopping leads to the formation of a cavity with a thin and unstable roof, which collapses suddenly. The newly formed depression then exhibits overhanging walls. Surface morphology and structure of natural examples, such as the summit pit craters at Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua, have many of the features created in the models, indicating that the internal structural geometry of experiments can be applied to real examples. In particular, the surface area and depth of the underpressured reservoir can be roughly estimated. We present a morphological analysis of summit pit craters at volcanoes such as Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), San Cristobal, Telica and Masaya (Nicaragua), and Ubinas (Peru), and indicate a likely type of subsidence and possible position of the former magma reservoir responsible for collapse in each case.
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Dates and versions

hal-03031476 , version 1 (30-11-2020)


Attribution - CC BY 4.0


  • HAL Id : hal-03031476 , version 1


Olivier Roche, B van Wyk de Vries, Timothy H. Druitt. Sub-surface structures and collapse mechanisms of summit pit craters. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2001, 105 (1-2), pp.1-18. ⟨hal-03031476⟩
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