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The November 2002 eruption at Piton de la Fournaise volcano, La Réunion Island: ground deformation, seismicity, and pit crater collapse

Abstract

An eruption on the eastern flank of Piton de la Fournaise volcano started on 16 November, 2002 after 10 months of quiescence. After a relatively constant level of activity during the first 13 days of the eruption, lava discharge, volcanic tremor and seismicity increased from 29 November to 3 December. Lava effusion suddenly ceased on 3 December while shallow earthquakes beneath the Dolomieu summit crater were still recorded at a rate of about one per minute. This unusual activity continued and increased in intensity over the next three weeks, ending with the formation of a pit crater within Dolomieu. Based on ground deformation, measured by rapid-static and continuous GPS and an extensometer, seismic data, and lava effusion patterns, the eruptive period is divided into five stages: 1) slow summit inflation and sporadic seismicity; 2) rapid summit inflation and a short seismic crisis; 3) rapid flank inflation, onset of summit deflation, sporadic seismicity, accompanied by stable effusion; 4) flank inflation, coupled with summit deflation, intense seismicity, and increased lava effusion; and finally 5) little deflation, intense shallow seismicity, and the end of lava effusion. We propose a model in which the pre-intrusive inflation of Stage 1 in the months preceding the eruption was caused by a magma body located near sea level. The magma reservoir was the source of an intrusion rising under the summit during Stage 2. In Stage 3, the magma ponded at a shallow level in the edifice while the lateral injection of a radial dike reached the surface on the eastern flank of the basaltic volcano, causing lava effusion. Pressure decrease in the magmatic plumbing system followed, resulting in upward migration of a collapse front, forming a subterranean column of debris by faulting and stoping. This caused intense shallow seismicity, increase in discharge of lava and volcanic tremor at the lateral vent in Stage 4 and, eventually the formation of a pit crater in Stage 5.

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Acknowledgements

We would particularly like to thank Pierre Briole of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris for GPS data processing, and Peggy Hellweg and an anonymous referee for their thorough reviews. We also acknowledge Valérie Ferrazzini of the OVPF, Ben Kennedy and Nathalie Vigouroux of McGill University, and Valentin Troll of Trinity College Dublin for helpful comments. We are indebted to all members of the OVPF, in particular Philippe Kowalski and Philippe Catherine, for their hard work in providing high quality data during the stay of JS and M-AL. at the OVPF. Financial support was provided by GEOTOP-UQÀM-McGill and the Office Franco-Québécois de la Jeunesse to M-AL, and grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to JS and M-AL.

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Correspondence to Marc-Antoine Longpré.

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Longpré, MA., Staudacher, T. & Stix, J. The November 2002 eruption at Piton de la Fournaise volcano, La Réunion Island: ground deformation, seismicity, and pit crater collapse. Bull Volcanol 69, 511–525 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-006-0087-0

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Keywords

  • Piton de la Fournaise volcano
  • Ground deformation
  • Pit crater
  • Seismicity
  • Stoping
  • Subterranean cavity
  • Lateral dike