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Large-scale flank collapse events during the activity of Montagne Pelée, Martinique, Lesser Antilles

Abstract : A horseshoe-shaped structure already identified on the southwestern flank of Montagne Pelée (Martinique, Lesser Antilles arc) was previously interpreted as resulting of a flank collapse event, but no debris avalanche deposits were observed at the time. New offshore high-resolution bathymetry and geophysical data (Aguadomar cruise; December 1998 to January 1999; R/V L'Atalante) lead us to identify three debris avalanche deposits on the submarine western flank of Montagne Pelée extending down to the Grenada Basin. They display morphological fronts and hummocky morphology on bathymetric data, speckled pattern on backscatter data and hyperbolic facies on 3.5 kHz and seismic profiles. New on-land geological studies lead us to identify two other horseshoe-shaped structures on the same flank of the volcano. The three submarine deposits have been traced back to the structures identified on land, which confirms the occurrence of repeated flank collapse events during the evolution of Montagne Pelée. The ages of the last two events are estimated at ∼9 ka and ∼25 ka on the basis of 14C and 238U/230Th dates. Every flank collapse produced debris avalanches which flowed down to the Caribbean Sea. We propose that the repeated instabilities are due to the large asymmetry of the island with western aerial and submarine slopes steeper than the eastern slopes. The asymmetry results from progressive loading by accumulation of volcanic products on the western slopes of the volcano and development of long-term gravitational instabilities. Meteoric and hydrothermal fluid circulation on the floor of the second flank collapse structure also creates a weakened hydrothermalized area, which favors the recurrence of flank collapses.
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Anne Le Friant, Georges Boudon, Christine Deplus, Benoît Villemant. Large-scale flank collapse events during the activity of Montagne Pelée, Martinique, Lesser Antilles. Journal of Geophysical Research : Solid Earth, American Geophysical Union, 2003, 108 (B1), ⟨10.1016/S0377-0273(98)00030-4⟩. ⟨insu-01586208⟩



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