The initial phase of the 2021 Cumbre Vieja ridge eruption (Canary Islands): products and dynamics controlling edifice growth and collapse

Jorge E. Romero, Mike Burton, Francisco Cáceres, Jacopo Taddeucci, Riccardo Civico, Tullio Ricci, Matthew J. Pankhurst, Pedro A. Hernández, Costanza Bonadonna, Edward W. Llewellin, Marco Pistolesi, Margherita Polacci, Carmen Solana, Luca D'auria, Fabio Arzilli, Daniele Andronico, Fátima Rodríguez, Maria Asensio-Ramos, Alba Martín-Lorenzo, Catherine HayerPiergiorgio Scarlato, Nemesio M. Perez

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Tajogaite cone in the Cumbre Vieja ridge (La Palma, Canary Islands) erupted between 19 September and 13 December 2021. The tephra and lava sourced from the newly formed fissure rapidly built a pyroclastic cone. During the early days of eruption and after several small-scale landslides, the west flank of the edifice partially collapsed on 25 September, breaching the cone and emplacing a prominent raft-bearing lava flow. Our research combines direct observations, digital elevation models, thermal and visible imaging, and textural and compositional investigation of the explosive products to describe and characterize the edifice growth and collapse. The cone built over a steep slope (26°) and its failure occurred after an intense phase of lava fountaining (up to 30 m3 s−1) that produced rapid pyroclastic accumulation. We suggest that an increased magma supply, to an ascent rate of 0.30 m s−1, led to the rapid growth of the cone (at 2.4 × 106 m3 day−1). Simultaneously, the SW lava flow reactivated and formed a lava ‘seep’ that undercut the flank of the cone, triggering a lateral collapse via rotational rockslide that moved at minimum speeds of 34–70 m h−1. The lateral collapse formed a ~ 200 m wide scar, involving 5.5 × 106 m3 of material, and covered 1.17 km2 with decametric edifice portions and raft-bearing lava. The collapse produced a modest change in the vent geometry, but did not affect eruptive activity long term. A short pause in the eruption after the collapse may have been favored by rapid emptying of the shallower magma system, reducing ascent rates and increasing crystallization times. These results reveal the complex chain of events related to the growth and destruction of newly formed volcanic cones and highlight hazards when situated close to inhabited areas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107642
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Early online date12 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • pyroclastic cone
  • mafic volcanism
  • volcanic instability
  • volcano monitoring
  • conduit dynamics
  • pre-eruptive conditions
  • UKRI
  • NERC
  • NE/N018575/1
  • NE/N018443/1


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