Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 6, pp 1293–1311 | Cite as

Vent temperature trends at the Vulcano Fossa fumarole field: the role of permeability

  • Andrew HarrisEmail author
  • Salvatore Alparone
  • Alessandro Bonforte
  • Jonathan Dehn
  • Salvatore Gambino
  • Luigi Lodato
  • Letizia Spampinato
Research Article


Between 1994 and 2010, we completed 16 thermal surveys of Vulcano’s Fossa fumarole field (Aeolian Islands, Italy). In each survey, between 400 and 1,200 vent temperatures were collected using a thermal infrared thermometer from distances of ∼1 m. The results show a general decrease in average vent temperature during 1994–2003, with the average for the entire field falling from ∼220°C in 1994 to ∼150°C by 2003. However, between 2004 and 2010, we witnessed heating, with the average increasing to ∼190°C by 2010. Alongside these annual-scale field-wide trends, we record a spatial re-organisation of the fumarole field, characterised by shut down of vent zones towards the crater floor, matched by rejuvenation of zones located towards the crater rim. Heating may be expected to be associated with deflation because increased amounts of vaporisation will remove volume from the hydrothermal system Gambino and Guglielmino (J Geophys Res 113:B07402, 2008). However, over the 2004–2010 heating period, no ground deformation was observed. Instead, the number of seismic events increased from a typical rate of 37 events per month during 1994–2000 to 195 events per month during 2004–2010. As part of this increase, we noticed a much greater number of high-frequency events associated with rock fracturing. We thus suggest that the heating event of 2004–2010 was the result of changed permeability conditions, rather than change in the heat supply from the deeper magmatic source. Within this scenario, cooling causes shut down of lower sectors and re-establishment of pathways located towards the crater rim, causing fracturing, increased seismicity and heat flow in these regions. This is consistent with the zone of rejuvenation (which lies towards and at the rim) being the most favourable location for fracturing given the stress field of the Fossa cone Schöpa et al. (J Volcanol Geotherm Res 203:133–145, 2011); it is also the most established zone, having been active at least since the early twentieth century. Our data show the value of deploying multi-disciplinary geophysical campaigns at degassing (fumarolic) hydrothermal systems. This allows more complete and constrained understanding of the true heat loss dynamics of the system. In the case study presented here, it allows us to distinguish true heating from apparent heating phases. While the former are triggered from the bottom-up, i.e. they are driven by increases in heat supply from the magmatic source, the latter are triggered from the top-down, i.e. by changing permeability conditions in the uppermost portion of the system to allow more efficient heat flow over zones predisposed to fracturing.


Fumaroles Vulcano Vent temperature Seismicity Deformation Permeability 



We acknowledge the work and support of the Gruppo Analisi Dati Sismici and the staff of the periodic GPS surveys group of INGV, Sez. Catania (Osservatorio Etneo). AH is indebted to the hospitality of La Giara.

The authors acknowledge the helpful suggestions and support of the two reviewers: Laszlo Kestay and anonymous. AH was supported by la Région Auvergne. This is Laboratory of Excellence ClerVolc contribution no. 20.

Supplementary material

445_2012_593_MOESM1_ESM.doc (54 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 54 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Harris
    • 1
    Email author
  • Salvatore Alparone
    • 2
  • Alessandro Bonforte
    • 2
  • Jonathan Dehn
    • 3
  • Salvatore Gambino
    • 2
  • Luigi Lodato
    • 2
  • Letizia Spampinato
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansUniversité Blaise PascalClermont FerrandFrance
  2. 2.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia—Sezione di CataniaCataniaItaly
  3. 3.University of Alaska FairbanksAlaskaUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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