Revisiting short-term earthquake triggered volcanism

  • Theresa Marie SawiEmail author
  • Michael Manga
Research Article


It has been noted for centuries that earthquakes appear to trigger the eruption of volcanoes. For example, analyses of global volcanic and seismic records since 1500 AD have shown that explosive eruptions with Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) values ≥2 are preceded within days by nearby major earthquakes (magnitude M8 or larger) about 4 times more often than expected due to coincidence, suggesting that large earthquakes can trigger eruptions. We expand the definition of a triggered eruption to include the possibility of M6 or greater earthquakes within 5 days and 800 km of a VEI 2 or greater eruption. Removing pre-1964 records, to ensure complete and accurate catalogs, we find 30 volcanoes that at some point experienced a potentially triggered eruption and define these volcanoes as “sensitive” volcanoes. Within this group of sensitive volcanoes, normalized distributions of volcano-centric factors such as tectonic setting, dominant rock type, and type of volcano are practically indistinguishable from those of sensitive volcanoes in which the time of eruption is randomized. Comparisons of sensitive volcanoes and insensitive volcanoes (i.e., volcanoes that have never experienced a triggered eruption) reveal that sensitive volcanoes are simply more active than insensitive volcanoes: They erupt more frequently, are located solely in subduction zones, and erupt primarily andesites and basaltic-andesites. The potentially triggered eruptions do not show the magnitude-distance relationship expected for seismically induced responses (e.g., hydrologic responses), and eruptions that do occur within days of nearby earthquakes do so within rates expected by random chance. There is, however, a 5–12% increase in the number of explosive eruptions in the 2 months to 2 years following major earthquakes. We conclude that short-term seismically triggered explosive eruptions occur less frequently than previously inferred, an important conclusion when considering volcanic hazards and for understanding the nature of earthquake-volcano interactions.


Earthquake Eruption Seismic triggering Earthquake-volcano interactions Induced volcanism 



We thank the National Science Foundation for supporting our efforts through EAR 1615203, the University of California Berkeley Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program for providing this research opportunity and the Ramsden fund for supporting the presentation of this research, Ed Venzke at the Smithsonian Institution for curating the digital volcano catalog via the Global Volcanism Program (GVP), and the Smithsonian for their long-term commitment to the GVP. Seismic data for this study were accessed through the Northern California Earthquake Data Center (NCEDC) and the Significant Earthquake Database at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Thanks to Kristen Fauria, Tushar Mittal, the editor, the associate editor, and the reviewers for their valuable input.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Planetary ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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