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Resuming erupting activity at volcanoes that have been long quiescent poses a significant challenge to hazard assessment, as it require assessment of whether the change in activity is an isolated event or the beginning of a new eruptive sequence. Such inception is often poorly characterised as quiescent volcanoes tend to be poorly equipped and not extensively monitored, especially with respect to gas geochemistry. Here, we report gas composition and flux measurements from a newly opened vent at the very onset of eruptive activity at the Nevados de Chillán volcanic complex (Chile) in January-February 2016. The molar proportions of H2O, CO2, SO2, H2S and H2 gases are found to be 98.4, 0.97, 0.11, 0.01 and 0.5 mol% respectively. The mean SO2 flux recorded in early February 2016 during periods of eruptive discharge amounts to 0.4-0.6 kg s-1. Our results indicate that the new vent opening was propelled by magmatic gases, triggering repeated eruptions. Ash particles ejected by the first blast of 8 January are dominated by lithic fragments of dacitic composition. By contrast the ash ejected in a subsequent eruption contains both lithic fragments of dense dacite, and a fresher, sparsely vesicular material of basaltic andesite composition. By October 2017 the ejected ash is back to being dominated by the dense dacitic lithic material. Together with the seismic and deformation record, these observations point to the explosive activity resulting from a small intrusion of basaltic to andesitic magma at shallow level. The fate of this magma, whether stalling or eventually triggering a magmatic eruption, remains to be seen, but current observations suggest the former is most likely.
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