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A new model for the evolution of La Réunion volcanic complex from complete marine geophysical surveys

Abstract : Results from recent marine geophysical surveys offer a new perspective for characterizing the evolution processes of volcanic islands. In 2006, cruises FOREVER and ERODER 1 investigated the submarine flanks and the surrounding abyssal plain of La Réunion (Indian Ocean) to obtain for the first time a complete geophysical survey of the area. Combined analyses of these data reveal major differences in the evolution of the two emerged volcanoes, Piton des Neiges and Piton de la Fournaise. We show that debris avalanche deposits extend on the abyssal plain only offshore the active Piton de la Fournaise volcano attesting the occurrence of large flank-collapse events. The absence of such deposits offshore Piton des Neiges and the presence of compressive structures within the sedimentary unit below the edifice support a mechanism of slow deformation of this volcano, such as sliding or spreading. The slow deformation of Piton des Neiges has led to numerous secondary submarine slope instabilities and favored some unconfined turbidity flows which generated large sediment waves running downward all around the island. This study proposes a new model using the most complete marine data set available: slow deformation controls the evolution of Piton des Neiges whereas Piton de la Fournaise (formed on the flanks of a pre-existing edifice) experienced catastrophic, large flank-collapse events.
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Anne Le Friant, Elodie Lebas, Valentin Clément, Georges Boudon, Christine Deplus, et al.. A new model for the evolution of La Réunion volcanic complex from complete marine geophysical surveys. Geophysical Research Letters, American Geophysical Union, 2011, 38 (9), pp.L09312. ⟨10.1029/2011GL047489⟩. ⟨insu-01609908⟩

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