skip to main content

Title: Explosive-effusive volcanic eruption transitions caused by sintering.
Silicic volcanic activity has long been framed as either violently explosive or gently effusive. However, recent ob- servations demonstrate that explosive and effusive behavior can occur simultaneously. Here, we propose that rhyolitic magma feeding subaerial eruptions generally fragments during ascent through the upper crust and that effusive eruptions result from conduit blockage and sintering of the pyroclastic products of deeper cryptic frag- mentation. Our proposal is supported by (i) rhyolitic lavas are volatile depleted; (ii) textural evidence supports a pyroclastic origin for effusive products; (iii) numerical models show that small ash particles !10−5 m can diffusive- ly degas, stick, and sinter to low porosity, in the time available between fragmentation and the surface; and (iv) inferred ascent rates from both explosive and apparently effusive eruptions can overlap. Our model reconciles previously paradoxical observations and offers a new framework in which to evaluate physical, numerical, and geochemical models of Earth’s most violent volcanic eruptions.
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Science advances
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Volcanic eruptions of rhyolitic magma often show shifts from powerful (Vulcanian to Plinian) explosive episodes to a more gentle effusion of viscous lava forming obsidian flows. Another prevailing characteris-tic of these eruptions is the presence of pyroclastic obsidians intermingled with the explosive tephra. This dense, juvenile product is similar to the tephra and obsidian flow in composition, but is generally less degassed than its flow counterpart. The formation mechanism(s) of pyroclastic obsidians and the information they can provide concerning the extent to which magma degassing modulates the eruptive style of rhyolitic eruptions are currently subject to active research. Porous tephra and pyroclastic and flow obsidians from the 1060CE Glass Mountain rhyolitic eruption at Medicine Lake Volcano (California) were analyzed for their porosity, φ, water content, H2O, and hydrogen isotopic composition, δD. H2O in porous pyroclasts is correlated negatively with δD and positively with φ, indicating that the samples were affected by post-eruptive rehydration. Numerical modeling suggests that this rehydration occurred at an average rate of 10−23.5±0.5m2s−1during the ∼960 years since the eruption, causing some pyroclasts to gain up to 1 wt%of meteoric water. Pyroclastic and flow obsidians were not affected by rehydration due to their very low porosity. Comparison betweenmore »modeled δD-H2O relationships in degassing magma and values measured in the Glass Mountain samples supports the idea that rhyolitic magma degasses in closed-system until its porosity reaches a value of about 65±5%, beyond which degassing occurs in open-system until quench. During the explosive phase, rapidly ascending magma fragments soon after it becomes permeable, creating porous lapilli and ash that continue to degas in open-system within an expanding gas phase. As suggested by recent studies, some ash may aggregate and sinter on the conduit sides at different depths above the fragmentation level, partly equilibrating with the continuously fluxing heavier magmatic vapor, explaining the wide range of H2O contents and high variability in δD measured in the pyroclastic obsidians. Using only H2O and δD, it is impossible to rule out the possibility that pyroclastic obsidians may also form by permeable foam collapse, either syn-explosively near the conduit sides below the fragmentation level or during more effusive periods interspersed in the explosive phase. During the final effusive phase of the eruption, slowly ascending magma degasses in open-system until it reaches the surface, creating flows with low H2O and δD. This study shows that H2O measured in highly porous pyroclasts of a few hundred years or more cannot be used to infer syn-eruptive magma degassing pathways, unless careful assessment of post-eruptive rehydration is first carried out. If their mechanism of formation can be better understood, detailed analysis of the variations in texture and volatile content of pyroclastic obsidians throughout the explosive phase may help decipher the reasons why rhyolitic eruptions commonly shift from explosive to effusive phases.« less
  2. Abstract

    Mafic volcanic activity is dominated by effusive to mildly explosive eruptions. Plinian and ignimbrite-forming mafic eruptions, while rare, are also possible; however, the conditions that promote such explosivity are still being explored. Eruption style is determined by the ability of gas to escape as magma ascends, which tends to be easier in low-viscosity, mafic magmas. If magma permeability is sufficiently high to reduce bubble overpressure during ascent, volatiles may escape from the magma, inhibiting violent explosive activity. In contrast, if the permeability is sufficiently low to retain the gas phase within the magma during ascent, bubble overpressure may drive magma fragmentation. Rapid ascent may induce disequilibrium crystallization, increasing viscosity and affecting the bubble network with consequences for permeability, and hence, explosivity. To explore the conditions that promote strongly explosive mafic volcanism, we combine microlite textural analyses with synchrotron x-ray computed microtomography of 10 pyroclasts from the 12.6 ka mafic Curacautín Ignimbrite (Llaima Volcano, Chile). We quantify microlite crystal size distributions (CSD), microlite number densities, porosity, bubble interconnectivity, bubble number density, and geometrical properties of the porous media to investigate the role of magma degassing processes at mafic explosive eruptions. We use an analytical technique to estimate permeability and tortuosity bymore »combing the Kozeny-Carman relationship, tortuosity factor, and pyroclast vesicle textures. The groundmass of our samples is composed of up to 44% plagioclase microlites, > 85% of which are < 10 µm in length. In addition, we identify two populations of vesicles in our samples: (1) a convoluted interconnected vesicle network produced by extensive coalescence of smaller vesicles (> 99% of pore volume), and (2) a population of very small and completely isolated vesicles (< 1% of porosity). Computed permeability ranges from 3.0 × 10−13to 6.3 × 10−12m2, which are lower than the similarly explosive mafic eruptions of Tarawera (1886; New Zealand) and Etna (112 BC; Italy). The combination of our CSDs, microlite number densities, and 3D vesicle textures evidence rapid ascent that induced high disequilibrium conditions, promoting rapid syn-eruptive crystallization of microlites within the shallow conduit. We interpret that microlite crystallization increased viscosity while simultaneously forcing bubbles to deform as they grew together, resulting in the permeable by highly tortuous network of vesicles. Using the bubble number densities for the isolated vesicles (0.1-3−3 × 104 bubbles per mm3), we obtain a minimum average decompression rate of 1.4 MPa/s. Despite the textural evidence that the Curacautín magma reached the percolation threshold, we propose that rapid ascent suppressed outgassing and increased bubble overpressures, leading to explosive fragmentation. Further, using the porosity and permeability of our samples, we estimated that a bubble overpressure > 5 MPa could have been sufficient to fragment the Curacautín magma. Other mafic explosive eruptions report similar disequilibrium conditions induced by rapid ascent rate, implying that syn-eruptive disequilibrium conditions may control the explosivity of mafic eruptions more generally.

    « less
  3. Abstract

    The processes and ranges of intensive variables that control magma transport and dyke propagation through the crust are poorly understood. Here we show that textural and compositional data of olivine crystals (Mg/Fe, Ni and P) from the tephra of the first months of Paricutin volcano monogenetic eruption (Mexico, 1943–1952) record fast growth and large temperature and oxygen fugacity gradients. We interpret that these gradients are due to convective magma transport in a propagating dyke to the Earth’s surface in less than a few days. The shortest time we have obtained is 0.1 day, and more than 50% of the calculated timescales are < 2 days for the earliest erupted tephra, which implies magma ascent rates of about 0.1 and 1 m s−1. The olivine zoning patterns change with the eruptive stratigraphy, and record a transition towards a more steady magma flow before the transition from explosive to effusive dynamics. Our results can inform numerical and experimental analogue models of dyke propagation, and thus facilitate a better understanding of the seismicity and other precursors of dyke-fed eruptions.

  4. The Sośnica Hill volcano is part of the Oligocene to Miocene (30.9–20.0 Ma) Strzelin volcanic field. . It is located 100 km east of the Ohře Rift in the eastern part of the Fore-Sudetic Block, south of the town of Strzelin, Poland. Modern quarrying has exposed the sub-volcanic magma feeder system of the central part of the volcano and an extrusive volcanic succession that includes a 40 m thick sequence of lava flows and pyroclastic deposits that col- lectively form a complex scoria cone. Geophysical data (ground magnetometry and electric resistivity tomogra- phy (ERT)) reveal sharp linear anomalies that are interpreted to reflect normal faults dissecting the volcano. The ERT data map both high and low resistivity bodies, likely representing coherent clay-free dry rocks and partly argilized volcaniclastic deposits, respectively. Paleomagnetic data from 20 intrusive sites reveal two populations of reverse polarity site mean data; 11 sites are of low dispersion and yield a group mean direction that is discor- dant to the expected field direction, while six sites are highly scattered. Three sites did not yield interpretable re- sults. We interpret the 11 sites as time-averaged field directions that are discordant to the expected field. The high dispersion ofmore »the remaining six sites are interpreted to indicate sub-volcanic deformation associated with the growth of the volcanic construct or multiple magma pulses over an extended period of time relative to secu- lar variation. AMS data from 35 sites show a range of flow directions that vary across the quarry without an or- derly pattern of fabric orientations. The flow pattern identified from dike paired margin data exhibits sub- vertical upward flow, sub-vertical downward, and moderately inclined northwest flow. Field observations and mapping indicate a complex development of the system in terms of styles of eruptive activity and structure of the final volcanic edifice. The activity included Strombolian and effusive phases, followed by phreatomagmatic, Hawaiian and again effusive eruptions. Such diversity of eruptive styles shows that the origin of the volcano is more complex than a simple, ‘textbook’ monogenetic scoria cone. Palaesoil on top of Strombolian deposits docu- ment a longer break in activity, after which eruptions resumed with different style; this is also not typical of monogenetic cones. The lateral variation in the volcanic succession suggests eruptions from several smaller, local vents. The complex subvolcanic magma flow patterns recorded in dikes match the variation of surface eruptive products and documents dynamically changing magma distribution paths in the near-surface and intra-cone part of the feeding system of the volcano.« less
  5. IODP Expedition 379 deep-sea drilling in 2019 (Gohl et al. 2021, doi:10.14379/iodp.proc.379.2021), offered an opportunity to obtain chronostratigraphic control for seismic reflection data for Amundsen Sea shelf and slope deposits that record Miocene to Present fluctuations in volume of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Here we report the age and interpret the provenance of a volcanic ash bed recovered at/near the Plio-Pleistocene boundary at 31.51 meters below sea level in Hole U1533B and 33.94 mbsf in Hole U1533D. With distinctive geochemistry and inferred wide regional distribution, the bed may serve as a reliable age marker. In Hole 1533B, the fresh tephra forms a discrete layer interstratified within uniform brown marine mud. The layer has a sharp base and upper boundary that is gradational over 5 cm into overlying mud. Color reflectance and density data aided identification of the tephra horizon (diffuse) in Hole 1533D, ~1000m away. A possible on-land source for ash is the Miocene to Pleistocene Marie Byrd Land volcanic province, comprising 18 large alkaline volcanoes dominated by effusive lavas. Products of pyroclastic eruptions are uncommon, mainly occurring as distal englacial, and probably marine, tephra. We undertook an offshore-onshore comparison by first characterizing samples of Site U1533 tephra frommore »a petrographic and geochemical standpoint, using thin section observations, EMPA-WDS glass compositions, and 40Ar/39Ar dating. We then identified onshore exposures with similar characteristics. The offshore tephra are composed of coarse (50-300µm) cuspate glass shards with elongated vesicles. The glass composition is rhyolite, with 75-79wt.% SiO2, ~4wt.% FeO and 0.0wt.% MgO. Single-crystal feldspar 40Ar/39Ar dates are 2.55±0.12 and 2.92±0.02 Ma for U1533B and 2.87 ±0.45 Ma for U1533D. The geochemistry, shard morphology, discrete bed expression, and lateral continuity between Holes U1533B-U1533D indicate that the rhyolite tephra formed as airfall settled to the deep seabed. The ca. 2.55 Ma age based on youngest feldspar grains differs slightly from the 2.1 to 2.2 Ma result obtained from in-progress core bio-magnetostratigraphy. Rare exposures of rhyolite are found in the Chang Peak/Mt. Waesche centers, 1080 km from Site U1533. We obtained pumice sample MB.7.3 (prior-published age of 1.6±0.2 Ma), which displays elevated FeO and F content, and MB.8.1, a specimen of porphyritic cryptocrystalline lava. Single-crystal sanidine 40Ar/39Ar dates are 1.315±0.007 Ma (MB.7.3) and 1.385±0.003 Ma (MB.8.1). Site U1533 samples share a geochemical affinity with these on-land rhyolites, expressed as similar SiO2, CaO, TiO2, MgO and FeO content, suggesting an origin for Site U1533 tephra in the Chang-Waesche volcanoes. A possible explanation for the distinctly greater age, and observed contrasts in Al2O3, Na2O and F percentages, is that Site U1533 tephra are older and erupted from a source entirely concealed beneath subsequent eruptions and the ice sheet. Our results suggest that rhyolite volcanism initiated earlier, was of longer duration than previously known (2.92 to 1.315 Ma), and dispersed tephra far offshore. The finding is significant because ash and aerosols produced by large eruptions may influence regional climate. Antarctica cooled significantly and ice sheets expanded in latest Pliocene time (McKay et al. 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1112248109).« less