O earthquakes 2012 in Central America would have triggered the eruption and activation of some volcanoes area, according to a new international study published in the journal Scientific Report.

The researcher of Geosciences Barcelona (GEO3BCN-CSIC), Joan Martin, collaborated in this publication led by the scientist Gino Gonzalez, doctoral student from University of Bari (Italy) and member of the NGO Volcanoes without Borders.

The study demonstrates the direct relationship that may exist between seismic and volcanic activity. “In our study, we demonstrated quantitatively when it is possible for earthquakes to trigger volcanic eruptions”, explains Martí.

Earthquakes can influence volcanic activity only when the volcano is already in a very advanced state of eruptive readiness

According to the work, earthquakes can influence volcanic activity, but only in very specific cases where the volcano is already in a state of eruptive preparation very advanced. “In the case of a volcano in a state of rest, the contribution of seismic energy to its system is not enough to be able to start the eruption”, adds the volcanologist.

“It is not a situation that can occur in a generalized way, but in very particular cases, which indicates the need for a good volcanic monitoring in these potentially active volcanoes”, details researcher GEO3BCN-CSIC.

Earthquakes as a tool to detect possible eruptions

To verify this relationship, the research team analyzed the earthquakes that occurred in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala between August and November 2012, a period in which Central America suffered three of the biggest earthquakes with a minimum magnitude of 7.3.

After these seismic movements, volcanic activity in that region increased for days and even years later. Also, there was eruptions of volcanoes that have been dormant for decades or hundreds of years. “Volcanoes and earthquakes are closer than we think and this could have implications for the global geodynamics from the Earth’s interior”, highlights González.

The research also points out that when analyzing the possible effects of a seismic movement on a volcano, not only the size of the earthquake but also the size of the earthquake must be taken into account. break time, It is dominant frequency and the radiating energy.

To analyze the effects of an earthquake on a volcano, it is necessary to take into account the rupture time, its dominant frequency and the energy it radiates.

“With this regional observation, we came to the conclusion that an earthquake, no matter how big, is not capable of reactivating a volcano with very low activity and causing it to erupt. Earthquakes cannot trigger volcanic eruptions, but they can help those with high previous activity to do so”, explains the researcher from the University of Bari.

For Dmitri Rouwet, research co-author and researcher at National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology of Italy, the conclusions of this study are important for the disaster reduction: “We know that there will be great earthquakes. If we know in advance the degree of activity of the volcanoes, we will be able to know which volcanoes will erupt in the medium term”.

Therefore, “it is necessary to work at local and regional level to anticipate possible eruptions and thus avoid the loss of human and economic lives”, adds the expert.


Gonzalez et al. “Increased volcanic agitation and number of eruptions following the sequence of major earthquakes in 2012 in Central America.” Sci Rep


Rights: Creative Commons.



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