Large historical eruptions at subaerial mud volcanoes, Italy
Abstract. Active mud volcanoes in the northern Apennines, Italy, currently have gentle eruptions. There are, however, historical accounts of violent eruptions and outbursts. Evidence for large past eruptions is also recorded by large decimeter rock clasts preserved in erupted mud. We measured the rheological properties of mud currently being erupted in order to evaluate the conditions needed to transport such large clasts to the surface. The mud is well-characterized by the Herschel-Bulkley model, with yield stresses between 4 and 8 Pa. Yield stresses of this magnitude can support the weight of particles with diameters up to several mm. At present, particles larger than this size are not being carried to the surface. The transport of larger clasts to the surface requires ascent speeds greater than their settling speed in the mud. We use a model for the settling of particles and rheological parameters from laboratory measurements to show that the eruption of large clasts requires ascent velocities > 1 m s−1, at least three orders of magnitude greater than during the present, comparatively quiescent, activity. After regional earthquakes on 20 May and 29 May 2012, discharge also increased at locations where the stress changes produced by the earthquakes would have unclamped feeder dikes below the mud volcanoes. The magnitude of increased discharge, however, is less than that inferred from the large clasts. Both historical accounts and erupted deposits are consistent in recording episodic large eruptions.