Factors controlling erosion/deposition phenomena related to lahars at Volcán de Colima, Mexico

Vázquez, Rosario; Capra, Lucia; Coviello, Velio

One of the most common phenomena at Volcán de Colima is the annual development of lahars that runs mainly through the southern ravines of the edifice. Since 2011 the study and the monitoring of these flows and of the associated rainfall has been achieved by means of an instrumented station located along the Montegrande ravine, together with the systematic surveying of cross-topographic profiles of the main channel. From these, we present the comparison of the morphological changes experimented by this ravine during the 2013, 2014 and 2015 rainy seasons. The erosion/deposition effects of 11 lahars that occurred during this period of time were quantified by means of the topographic profiles taken at the beginning and at the end of the rainy seasons and before and after the major lahar event of 11 June 2013. We identified (i) an erosive zone between 2100 and 1950 m a.s.l., 8° in slope, with an annual erosional rate of 10.3 % mainly due to the narrowness of the channel and to its high slope angle and (ii) an erosive-depositional zone, between 1900 and 1700 m a.s.l., ( ∼ 8 % erosion and  ∼ 16 % deposition), characterized by a wider channel that decreases in slope angle (4°). Based on these observations, the major factors controlling the erosion/deposition rates in the Montegrande ravine are the morphology of the gully (i.e., channel bed slope and the cross section width) and the joint effect of sediment availability and accumulated rainfall. On the distal reach of the ravine, the erosion/deposition processes tend to be promoted preferentially one over the other, mostly depending on the width of the active channel. Only for extraordinary rainfall events are the largest lahars mostly erosive all along the ravine up to the distal fan where the deposition takes place. In addition, as well as the morphological characteristics of the ravine, the flow depth is a critical factor in controlling erosion, as deeper flows will promote erosion against deposition. Finally, by comparing rainfalls associated with lahars that originated after the last main eruptive episode that occurred in 2004–2005, we observed that higher accumulated rainfall was needed to trigger lahars in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, which points to a progressive stabilization of the volcano slope during a post-eruptive period. These results can be used as a tool to foresee the channel response to future volcanic activity, to improve the input parameters for lahar modeling and to better constrain the hazard zonation at Volcán de Colima.

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Vázquez, Rosario / Capra, Lucia / Coviello, Velio: Factors controlling erosion/deposition phenomena related to lahars at Volcán de Colima, Mexico. 2016. Copernicus Publications.

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