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Landslide and tsunami hazard at Yate volcano, Chile as an example of edifice destruction on strike-slip fault zones

Abstract

The edifice of Yate volcano, a dissected stratocone in the Andean Southern Volcanic Zone, has experienced multiple summit collapses throughout postglacial time restricted to sectors NE and SW of the summit. The largest such historic event occurred on 19th February 1965 when ∼6.1–10 × 106 m3 of rock and ice detached from 2,000-m elevation to the SW of the summit and transformed into a debris flow. In the upper part of the flow path, velocities are estimated to have reached 40 m s−1. After travelling 7,500 m and descending 1,490 m, the flow entered an intermontane lake, Lago Cabrera. A wavemaker of estimated volume 9 ± 3 × 106 m3 generated a tsunami with an estimated amplitude of 25 m and a run-up of ∼60 m at the west end of the lake where a settlement disappeared with the loss of 27 lives. The landslide followed 15 days of unusually heavy summer rain, which may have caused failure by increasing pore water pressure in rock mechanically weathered through glacial action. The preferential collapse directions at Yate result from the volcano’s construction on the dextral strike-slip Liquiñe-Ofqui fault zone. Movement on the fault during the lifetime of the volcano is thought to have generated internal instabilities in the observed failure orientations, at ∼10° to the fault zone in the Riedel shear direction. This mechanically weakened rock may have led to preferentially orientated glacial valleys, generating a feedback mechanism with collapse followed by rapid glacial erosion, accelerating the rate of incision into the edifice through repeated landslides. Debris flows with magnitudes similar to the 1965 event are likely to recur at Yate, with repeat times of the order of 102 years. With a warming climate, increased glacial meltwater due to snowline retreat and increasing rain, at the expense of snow, may accelerate rates of edifice collapse, with implications for landslide hazard and risk at glaciated volcanoes, in particular those in strike-slip tectonic settings where orientated structural instabilities may exist.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Juan Freddy Antiñirre, Ercilia Mancilla and Antonio Paillén for their personal accounts of events in 1965. We gratefully acknowledge the help of José Luis Urrutia and all CONAF staff at Parque Nacional Hornopirén and Richard Herd for providing the PicWorks photogrammetry application. This work was supported by a NERC studentship to SFLW. TM thanks the Royal Society for funding. We thank John Stix, John Clague and Benjamin van Wyk de Vries for detailed reviews that greatly improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sebastian F. L. Watt.

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Editorial responsibility: J. Stix

Appendix 1: Eyewitness accounts

Appendix 1: Eyewitness accounts

The following is a précis of interviews with eyewitnesses of the 1965 landslide.

Juan Freddy Antiñirre and Ercilia Mancilla (who lost her father, a brother and a sister in the tsunami), Chaihuaco, 15th January 2007: The wave arrived in the early hours of the morning on 19th February 1965, completely destroying three houses at the SW corner of the lake. One house containing two people survived, situated 30 m beyond today’s shrine. This land was forested, with mature living coigüe. Twenty-seven lives were lost, and extensive searching, including by boat, yielded only the partial remains of one person. Water, not debris, did the damage, but ankle-deep soft mud was deposited. The water travelled beyond the region marked by stripped vegetation. At the east lakeshore, there were no signs of previous debris flows; the land was a flat forested valley, farmed, although the one farmhouse there was empty that night. This area was completely buried by rock, snow and ice, leaving hummocks 6–8 m high, and rocks. Following the event, the lake was turbid and contained icebergs and was different in terms of shape and size. The SW shoreline moved by about 100 m and the water level rose by about 6 m. Bubbles appeared occasionally in the shallow water here after the event. Before the event, the Yate summit had a smooth conical profile, resembling a volcano, where the scarp and cliff are today. Unusually bad summer weather, of heavy rainfall, had occurred for 15 days before the landslide.

Antonio Paillén, Hornopirén, 16th January 2007: Corroborated the above account. He was in the house that survived at the SW end of the lake, playing cards at 2.00 a.m. local time, when he heard a noise that he attributes to the rockfall. Water arrived against the walls of his house concurrent with the noise. He lived about 100 m beyond the main zone of damage and noted a second noise after the wave, but only one wave.

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Watt, S.F.L., Pyle, D.M., Naranjo, J.A. et al. Landslide and tsunami hazard at Yate volcano, Chile as an example of edifice destruction on strike-slip fault zones. Bull Volcanol 71, 559 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-008-0242-x

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Keywords

  • Volcanic landslide
  • Debris flow
  • Yate volcano
  • Edifice collapse
  • Liquiñe-Ofqui fault zone
  • Tsunami
  • Strike-slip