Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Stephen R. McNutt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Glenn Thompson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jochen Braunmiller, Ph.D.


low-frequency events, Swarm, volcanic tremor, model


In this thesis I combine data from 29 volcanic earthquake swarms that follow the pattern predicted by the Generic Volcanic Earthquake Swarm Model (GVESM; Benoit and McNutt, 1996) to investigate whether the relative timing of various parameters of pre-eruptive volcanic earthquake swarms could be used to forecast the time of an impending eruption. Based on the analysis of seismic unrest preceding many eruptions, the GVESM suggests that it is common to see an increase first in high-frequency earthquakes, then low-frequency earthquakes, then the onset of volcanic tremor. While this pattern is useful to volcano-seismologists, the relative timing and durations of these three different types of volcanic seismicity, is explored here for the first time. The parameters investigated are the onset times of (i) low-frequency (LF) events and of (ii) tremor, and the time at which (iii) the peak rate (PR) of volcano-tectonic (VT) events and (iv) the maximum magnitude (MM) earthquake occur in relation to normalized time defined by swarm onset and end (i.e., eruption). The normalized time starts at the swarm onset (0%) and ends with the eruption (100%) allowing a comparison and joint consideration of parameter occurrences across swarms of different actual duration. We identify the normalized onset time of for each parameter (LF, tremor, PR, MM) with respect to the duration of each swarm. Each swarm has onset time uncertainties of the swarm itself and of its parameters. A swarm with large onset uncertainty could bias the normalized onset time of each parameter and we use weighted means to decrease the influence of swarms with large uncertainties on overall results. The weighted means of LF onset, tremor onset, MM and PR occurrence are 79% ± 23%, 96% ± 10%, 78% ± 29% and 75% ± 34%, respectively. Errors are the standard deviation of each parameter. The uncertainties for LF, MM and PR are large because their normalized onset times have the characteristics of a uniform distribution and therefore seem to have no predictive value. In contrast, tremor onset has a narrow distribution towards the end of swarms. A possible tremor mechanism consistent with this observation could be boiling of groundwater as magma nears the surface. LF onset always seems to precede tremor onset. LF and tremor start early (at less than 80% of normalized time) at five volcanoes with high SiO2 content possibly related to lower density and higher gas content of the resulting magma.