Forecasting catastrophic stratovolcano collapse: A model based on Mount Taranaki, New Zealand

Regular large-scale edifice collapse and regrowth is a common pattern during the long lifespans of andesitic stratovolcanoes worldwide. The >130 k.y. history of Mount Taranaki, New Zealand, is punctuated by at least 14 catastrophic collapses, producing debris avalanche deposits of 1 to >7.5 km³. The largest of these sudden events removed as much as one-third of the present-day equivalent cone. The resulting deposits show similar sedimentary and geomorphic features, suggesting similar proto-edifice characteristics, failure trigger mechanisms, and runout path conditions. Each collapse was followed by sustained renewed volcanism and cone regrowth, although there are no matching stepwise geochemical changes in the magma erupted; instead a stable, slowly evolving magmatic system has prevailed. Last Glacial climatic variations are also uncorrelated with the timing or magnitudes of edifice collapse. We demonstrate here that, if the magmatic composition erupted from stratovolcanoes is constant and basement geology conditions are stable, large-scale edifice collapse and the generation of catastrophic debris avalanches will be governed by the magma supply rate. Using a mass balance approach, a volume-frequency model can be applied to forecasting both the probable timing and volume of future edifice failure of such stratovolcanoes. In the Mount Taranaki case, the maximum potential size of a present collapse is estimated to be 7.9 km³, while the maximum interval before the next collapse is <16.2 k.y. The current annual collapse probability is ∼0.00018, with the most likely collapse being a small one (<2 km³).
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Zernack, A. V., Cronin, S. J., Bebbington, M. S., Price, R. C., Smith, I. E. M., Stewart, R. B., & Procter, J. N. (2012). Forecasting catastrophic stratovolcano collapse: A model based on Mount Taranaki, New Zealand. Geology, 40(11), 983-986.
Geological Society of America