Downstream aggradation owing to lava dome extrusion and rainfall runoff at Volcán Santiaguito, Guatemala

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Persistent lava extrusion at the Santiaguito dome complex (Guatemala) results in continuous lahar activity and river bed aggradation downstream of the volcano. We present a simple method that uses vegetation indices extracted from Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) data to map impacted zones. Application of this technique to a time series of 21 TM images acquired between 1987 and 2000 allow us to map, measure, and track temporal and spatial variations in the area of lahar impact and river aggradation.

In the proximal zone of the fluvial system, these data show a positive correlation between extrusion rate at Santiaguito (E), aggradation area 12 months later (Aprox), and rainfall during the intervening 12 months (Rain12): Aprox = 3.92 + 0.50 E + 0.31 ln(Rain12) (r2= 0.79). This describes a situation in which an increase in sediment supply (extrusion rate) and/or a means to mobilize this sediment (rainfall) results in an increase in lahar activity (aggraded area). Across the medial zone, we find a positive correlation between extrusion rate and/or area of proximal aggradation and medial aggradation area (Amed): Amed = 18.84 - 0.05 Aprox - 6.15 Rain12 (r2 = 0.85). Here the correlation between rainfall and aggradation area is negative. This describes a situation in which increased sediment supply results in an increase in lahar activity but, because it is the zone of transport, an increase in rainfall serves to increase the transport efficiency of rivers flowing through this zone. Thus, increased rainfall flushes the medial zone of sediment.

These quantitative data allow us to empirically define the links between sediment supply and mobilization in this fluvial system and to derive predictive relationships that use rainfall and extrusion rates to estimate aggradation area 12 months hence.

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© 2006 Geological Society of America. Publisher's version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/2006.2412(05)

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GSA Special Papers