Articles | Volume 35
13 Aug 2013
 | 13 Aug 2013

The vague volcano-seismic clock of the South American Pacific margin

G. Scalera

Abstract. During his trip on the Beagle, Charles Darwin wrote about the eruptions associated with the Concepción earthquake of 1835. A later survey by Lorenzo Casertano, following the great 1960 Chilean earthquake, identified some unclear evidence of a link between eruptions and the seismic event, although some reservations were also raised. Using data available in 2006 in the Smithsonian Institution Catalogue of volcanic eruptions, Scalera revealed grounded evidence that South-American Wadati-Benioff zone earthquakes of magnitudes greater than 8.4 are associated with an increased rate of volcanic eruptions, but it was still impossible to determine a causal link between the two phenomena. An average return period of about 50 yr was deducible from the data for the time window 1800–1999. After 2006, the Smithsonian Institution's effort to improve our knowledge of this region has greatly increased the completeness of the catalogue, adding the eruptions from the 2000–2010 interval, together with 50 % more new entries in the list of Andean volcanoes. The great Chilean Maule earthquake of 27 February 2010 (M=8.8), occurring exactly five decades after the 1960 event, provided an occasion to reanalyse this updated database. The results suggest a preferential causal eruptions-earthquake relationship, but additional future volcano-seismic events should be studied to arrive at a definitive conclusion, within the perspective of using this phenomenon for Civil Protection. The possible correlation of South American volcano-seismic events with the Markowitz oscillation of the Polar Motion is another good reason for trying to establish an integrated geodynamic explanation.