Southward Migration of Magmatic Activity in the Colima Volcanic Complex, Mexico: An Ongoing Process


The Colima Volcanic Complex trends in a nearly N-S direction in western Mexico, and one of its structures, Colima volcano, is the most historically active volcano in the country. Immediately to the N, there is another volcanic center called El Cántaro volcano, whose activity started around 1.7 Ma in its N portion and migrated to the S in various episodes. Volcanic activity migrated further south, from El Cántaro to the Colima Volcanic Complex where the southernmost manifestation, Hijos del Volcán domes, is located on the south slope of Fuego volcano. The above date appears to mark initiation of the rather continuous volcanic activity in the area. It has been noted that these volcanic manifestations lie on, or near the Rivera-Cocos inland plate boundary. Colima’s Fuego volcano is also the closest to the Middle America Trench, among the polygenetic volcanoes in Mexico. We submit that the anomalous location of volcanism in this area originates in an anomalous subduction process of the Rivera and Cocos plates and evoke a tectonic model, proposed elsewhere, to support the idea. Modeling gravimetric and aeromagnetic data we locate the magma chambers of the Fuego (active) and Nevado (extinct) volcanoes within a 65 mGals negative Bouguer anomaly elongated in a nearly N-S direction. The corresponding aeromagnetic map displays a magnetic high over the southern portion of the Fuego volcano edifice. We found two additional, associated structures whose anomalies have not been previously reported, which appear to follow the southward magmatic migration pattern. One of them is a collapse structure with a circular topographic expression, and the southernmost is a low-density intrusion ~1 km below sea level, associated with a moderate topographic bulge at the surface that we interpret as a magma body. Five lines cross the anomalies; gravimetric and magnetic fields are concurrently modeled along them to locate the magmatic bodies. In addition to the 2-D models we perform 3-D gravimetric and magnetic inversions. For each field a 3-D mesh is built under the area occupied by the Colima Volcanic Complex, the volume elements are then assigned density or magnetic susceptibility values and their surface contributions in various points are evaluated. The process is iterated until the difference between the measured and the calculated fields is less than a predetermined value. The results of each inversion adequately and independently define the location of the magmatic chambers although they cannot distinguish between the individual chambers of the Nevado and Fuego volcanoes. 2-D and 3-D results complement each other and consistently show the locations of potential magmatic regions. Our models support a multiple, complex magmatic system that appears to continue to spread southwardly, which can pose additional volcanic risks to an already threatened local population.

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Alvarez, R. and Yutsis, V. (2015) Southward Migration of Magmatic Activity in the Colima Volcanic Complex, Mexico: An Ongoing Process. International Journal of Geosciences, 6, 1077-1099. doi: 10.4236/ijg.2015.69085.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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