Response of Mount Etna to dynamic stresses from distant earthquakes



[1] Influences of distant earthquakes on volcanic systems by dynamic stress transfer are well documented. We analyzed seismic signals and volcanic activity at Mount Etna during two periods, January 2006 and May 2008, that clearly showed variations coincident with distant earthquakes. In the first period, characterized by mild volcano activity, the effect of the dynamic stress transfer, caused by an earthquake in Greece (M = 6.8), was twofold: (1) banded tremor activity changed its features and almost disappeared; (2) a swarm of volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes took place. The changes of the banded tremor were likely due to variations in rock permeability, caused by fluid flows driven by dynamic strain. The VT earthquake swarm probably developed as a secondary process, promoted by the dynamically triggered activation of magmatic fluids. The second period, May 2008, showed an intense explosive activity. During this interval, the dynamic stress transfer, associated with the arrival of the seismic waves of the Sichuan earthquake (M = 7.9), affected the character of the seismo-volcanic signals and on the following day triggered an eruption. In particular, we observed changes in volcanic tremor and increases of both occurrence rate and energy of long period events. In this case, we suggest that dynamic stress transfer caused nucleation of new bubbles in volatile-rich magma bodies with consequent buildup of pressure, highlighted by the increase of long period activity, followed by the occurrence of an eruption. We conclude that stresses from distant earthquakes are capable of modifying the state of the volcano.