Complex behavior and source model of the tremor at Arenal volcano, Costa Rica - INSU - Institut national des sciences de l'Univers Access content directly
Journal Articles Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research Year : 2006

Complex behavior and source model of the tremor at Arenal volcano, Costa Rica


Typical records of volcanic tremor and explosion quakes at Arenal volcano are analyzed with a high-resolution time-frequency method. The main characteristics of these seismic signals are: (1) numerous regularly spaced spectral peaks including both odd and even overtones; (2) frequency gliding in the range [0.9–2] Hz of the fundamental peak; (3) frequency jumps with either positive or negative increments; (4) tremor episodes with two simultaneous systems of spectral peaks affected by independent frequency gliding; (5) progressive transitions between spasmodic tremor and harmonic tremor; (6) lack of clear and systematic relationship between the occurrence of explosions and tremor. Some examples of alternation between two states of oscillation characterized by different fundamental frequencies are also observed. Some tremor and explosion codas are characterized by acoustic and seismic waves with identical spectral content and frequency gliding, which suggests a common excitation process. We propose a source model for the tremor at Arenal in which intermittent gas flow through fractures produces repetitive pressure pulses. The repeating period of the pulses is stabilized by a feedback mechanism associated with standing or traveling waves in the magmatic conduit. The pressure pulses generate acoustic waves in the atmosphere and act as excitation of the interface waves in the conduit. When the repeating period of the pulses is stable enough, they produce regularly spaced spectral peaks by the Dirac comb effect and hence harmonic tremor. When the period stability is lost, because of failures in the feedback mechanism, the tremor becomes spasmodic. The proposed source model of tremor is similar to the sound emission process of a clarinet. Fractures in the solid or viscous layer capping the lava pool in the crater act as the clarinet reed, and the conduit filled with low velocity bubbly magma is equivalent to the pipe of the musical instrument. The frequency gliding is related to variations of the pressure in the conduit, which modify the gas fraction, the wave velocity and, possibly, the length of the resonator. Moreover, several observations suggest that two seismic sources, associated with two magmatic conduits, are active in Arenal volcano. They could explain in particular the apparent independence of tremor and explosions and the episodes of tremor displaying two simultaneous systems of spectral peaks.

Dates and versions

insu-00268198 , version 1 (31-03-2008)



Philippe Lesage, Mauricio M. Mora, Guillermo E. Alvarado, Javier Pacheco, Jean-Philippe Métaxian. Complex behavior and source model of the tremor at Arenal volcano, Costa Rica. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2006, 157 (1-3), pp.49-59. ⟨10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2006.03.047⟩. ⟨insu-00268198⟩
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