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On volcanic islands, landslides can trigger giant eruptions

Jan. 19 (UPI) – A new analysis of Mount Teide, the volcano on the island of Tenerife, suggests a strong link between underwater landslides and catastrophic eruptions. In fact, scientists assume that the collapse of the island's flanks could trigger massive eruptions.

When researchers from the National Oceanography Center at the University of Southampton in England studied the sediment deposits of the island's multi-stage underwater landslides, they found volcanic material only between the upper layers of each deposit. The discovery suggests that landslides began before each eruption.

By analyzing the thin layers of volcanic clay interspersed between the collapse and the volcanic deposits, the scientists determined the end of each submarine landslide and the beginning of each eruption was separated by a space of ten hours.

El Teide and the island of Tenerife, located in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain, are not unique. The phenomenon can explain the behavior of other island volcanoes.

"Crucially, this new research shows that after the initial underwater landslide there could be between ten hours and several weeks until the eruption finally triggers, very different from the nearby one, the instantaneous activation of landslides of the eruption from Mount St Helens in 1980, "NOC scientist James Hunt said in a press release. "This information could help inform risk mitigation strategies for volcanoes similar to Teide, such as Mt. St Helens or Montserrat."

The researchers published their findings this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

Under normal conditions, the shallow magma of the Teide chamber does not receive enough water and other volatiles to inspire a considerable eruption. Scientists suggest that massive submarine landslides help to remove volcanic material and cause the magma of the volatile magma chambers to rise and mix with the magma in the shallow chamber, inspiring massive eruptions.

Such eruptions are some of the most explosive on Earth. The collapse of the flanks of the volcanic islands is one of the largest movements of land masses in the plants, and the explosions they inspire can pack the power of an atomic bomb. Landslides and eruptions can also trigger devastating tsunamis.

Scientists hope that their better understanding of the unique dynamics of island volcanoes can inspire improved eruption forecasting models.

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