The seismic signals of hundreds of rockfalls within Dolomieu crater, Piton de la Fournaise volcano, Réunion Island, have been analyzed to investigate a possible link between physical rockfall-generating processes and associated seismic signal features. Moreover, indirect observation of rockfalls via the seismic signals they generate can provide useful data for studying volcanoes and the temporal variations of their structure. An increase in the number of rockfall events and their volumes might be an indicator of structural weakness and deformation of the volcano associated with potential eruptive activity. The study focuses on a 10 month period following the 6 April 2007 crater floor collapse within Dolomieu crater, from May 2007 to February 2008. For granular flows a scaling law is revealed between seismic energy and signal duration. A semiempirical approach based on both analytical analysis and numerical simulation of these flows shows that a similar scaling law exists between the difference of potential energy computed for an event and its propagation times and also emphasizes the effect of local topography on this scaling law. Simulated and observed data were compared to evaluate the proportion of potential energy dissipated in the form of seismic waves and confirm a direct link between the seismic energy and potential energy of a given granular flow. The mean ratio of seismic to potential energy is of the order of 10−4, comparable to the range of values observed in previous studies. A simple method based on these ratios is proposed to estimate the volumes of rockfalls from their seismic signal. Observed seismic energy and the frequency of rockfalls decreased at the beginning of the studied period and reached a stable level in July, thus suggesting a postcollapse relaxation time of Dolomieu crater structure of about 2 months from seismic signal analysis, which is confirmed by deformation data. The total rockfall volume over the study period is estimated to be 1.85 Mm3.
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