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Concept: Lava


A fragment of continental crust has been postulated to underlie the young plume-related lavas of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius based on the recovery of Proterozoic zircons from basaltic beach sands. Here we document the first U-Pb zircon ages recovered directly from 5.7 Ma Mauritian trachytic rocks. We identified concordant Archaean xenocrystic zircons ranging in age between 2.5 and 3.0 Ga within a trachyte plug that crosscuts Older Series plume-related basalts of Mauritius. Our results demonstrate the existence of ancient continental crust beneath Mauritius; based on the entire spectrum of U-Pb ages for old Mauritian zircons, we demonstrate that this ancient crust is of central-east Madagascar affinity, which is presently located ∼700 km west of Mauritius. This makes possible a detailed reconstruction of Mauritius and other Mauritian continental fragments, which once formed part of the ancient nucleus of Madagascar and southern India.

Concepts: Plate tectonics, India, Mauritius, Basalt, Madagascar, Lava, Indian Ocean, Igneous rock


Kikai submarine caldera to the south of the Kyushu Island, SW Japan, collapsed at 7.3 ka during the latest supereruption (>500 km3 of magma) in the Japanese Archipelago. Multi functional research surveys of the T/S Fukae Maru in this caldera, including multi-beam echosounder mapping, remotely operated vehicle observation, multi-channel seismic reflection survey, and rock sampling by dredging and diving, provided lines of evidence for creation of a giant rhyolite lava dome (~32 km3) after the caldera collapse. This dome is still active as water column anomalies accompanied by bubbling from its surface are observed. Chemical characteristics of dome-forming rhyolites akin to those of presently active small volcanic cones are different from those of supereruption. The voluminous post-caldera activity is thus not caused simply by squeezing the remnant of syn-caldera magma but may tap a magma system that has evolved both chemically and physically since the 7.3-ka supereruption.

Concepts: Rhyolite, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, Kagoshima Prefecture, Volcanology, Caldera, Volcano, Lava


Ground deformation often precedes volcanic eruptions, and results from complex interactions between source processes and the thermomechanical behaviour of surrounding rocks. Previous models aiming to constrain source processes were unable to include realistic mechanical and thermal rock properties, and the role of thermomechanical heterogeneity in magma accumulation was unclear. Here we show how spatio-temporal deformation and magma reservoir evolution are fundamentally controlled by three-dimensional thermomechanical heterogeneity. Using the example of continued inflation at Aira caldera, Japan, we demonstrate that magma is accumulating faster than it can be erupted, and the current uplift is approaching the level inferred prior to the violent 1914 Plinian eruption. Magma storage conditions coincide with estimates for the caldera-forming reservoir ~29,000 years ago, and the inferred magma supply rate indicates a ~130-year timeframe to amass enough magma to feed a future 1914-sized eruption. These new inferences are important for eruption forecasting and risk mitigation, and have significant implications for the interpretations of volcanic deformation worldwide.

Concepts: Magma, Rock, Mount Vesuvius, Plinian eruption, Lava, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Caldera, Volcano


The 2012 submarine eruption of Havre volcano in the Kermadec arc, New Zealand, is the largest deep-ocean eruption in history and one of very few recorded submarine eruptions involving rhyolite magma. It was recognized from a gigantic 400-km2 pumice raft seen in satellite imagery, but the complexity of this event was concealed beneath the sea surface. Mapping, observations, and sampling by submersibles have provided an exceptionally high fidelity record of the seafloor products, which included lava sourced from 14 vents at water depths of 900 to 1220 m, and fragmental deposits including giant pumice clasts up to 9 m in diameter. Most (>75%) of the total erupted volume was partitioned into the pumice raft and transported far from the volcano. The geological record on submarine volcanic edifices in volcanic arcs does not faithfully archive eruption size or magma production.

Concepts: Komatiite, New Zealand, Magma, Basalt, Pumice, Lava, Volcanology, Volcano


A mural excavated at the Neolithic Çatalhöyük site (Central Anatolia, Turkey) has been interpreted as the oldest known map. Dating to ∼6600 BCE, it putatively depicts an explosive summit eruption of the Hasan Dağı twin-peaks volcano located ∼130 km northeast of Çatalhöyük, and a birds-eye view of a town plan in the foreground. This interpretation, however, has remained controversial not least because independent evidence for a contemporaneous explosive volcanic eruption of Hasan Dağı has been lacking. Here, we document the presence of andesitic pumice veneer on the summit of Hasan Dağı, which we dated using (U-Th)/He zircon geochronology. The (U-Th)/He zircon eruption age of 8.97±0.64 ka (or 6960±640 BCE; uncertainties 2σ) overlaps closely with (14)C ages for cultural strata at Çatalhöyük, including level VII containing the “map” mural. A second pumice sample from a surficial deposit near the base of Hasan Dağı records an older explosive eruption at 28.9±1.5 ka. U-Th zircon crystallization ages in both samples range from near-eruption to secular equilibrium (>380 ka). Collectively, our results reveal protracted intrusive activity at Hasan Dağı punctuated by explosive venting, and provide the first radiometric ages for a Holocene explosive eruption which was most likely witnessed by humans in the area. Geologic and geochronologic lines of evidence thus support previous interpretations that residents of Çatalhöyük artistically represented an explosive eruption of Hasan Dağı volcano. The magmatic longevity recorded by quasi-continuous zircon crystallization coupled with new evidence for late-Pleistocene and Holocene explosive eruptions implicates Hasan Dağı as a potential volcanic hazard.

Concepts: Geochronology, Lava, Turkey, Radiometric dating, Explosive eruption, Volcanology, Magma, Volcano


Crystals formed prior to a volcanic event can provide evidence of processes leading to and timing of eruptions. Clinopyroxene is common in basaltic to intermediate volcanoes, however, its ability as a recorder of pre-eruptive histories has remained comparatively underexplored. Here we show that novel high-resolution trace element images of clinopyroxene track eruption triggers and timescales at Mount Etna (Sicily, Italy). Chromium (Cr) distribution in clinopyroxene from 1974 to 2014 eruptions reveals punctuated episodes of intrusion of primitive magma at depth. Magma mixing efficiently triggered volcanism (success rate up to 90%), within only 2 weeks of arrival of mafic intrusions. Clinopyroxene zonations distinguish between injections of mafic magma and regular recharges with more evolved magma, which often fail to tip the system to erupt. High Cr zonations can therefore be used to reconstruct past eruptions and inform responses to geophysical signals of volcano unrest, potentially offering an additional approach to volcano hazard monitoring.

Concepts: Decade Volcanoes, Volcanology, Mount Vesuvius, Sicily, Lava, Magma, Volcano, Basalt


Columnar joints form by cracking during cooling-induced contraction of lava, allowing hydrothermal fluid circulation. A lack of direct observations of their formation has led to ambiguity about the temperature window of jointing and its impact on fluid flow. Here we develop a novel thermo-mechanical experiment to disclose the temperature of columnar jointing in lavas. Using basalts from Eyjafjallajökull volcano (Iceland) we show that contraction during cooling induces stress build-up below the solidus temperature (980 °C), resulting in localised macroscopic failure between 890 and 840 °C. This temperature window for incipient columnar jointing is supported by modelling informed by mechanical testing and thermal expansivity measurements. We demonstrate that columnar jointing takes place well within the solid state of volcanic rocks, and is followed by a nonlinear increase in system permeability of <9 orders of magnitude during cooling. Columnar jointing may promote advective cooling in magmatic-hydrothermal environments and fluid loss during geothermal drilling and thermal stimulation.

Concepts: Rock, Pumice, Magma, Volcanology, Fundamental physics concepts, Lava, Volcano, Basalt


The omnipresence of lithium-ion batteries in mobile electronics, and hybrid and electric vehicles necessitates discovery of new lithium resources to meet rising demand and to diversify the global lithium supply chain. Here we demonstrate that lake sediments preserved within intracontinental rhyolitic calderas formed on eruption and weathering of lithium-enriched magmas have the potential to host large lithium clay deposits. We compare lithium concentrations of magmas formed in a variety of tectonic settings using in situ trace-element measurements of quartz-hosted melt inclusions to demonstrate that moderate to extreme lithium enrichment occurs in magmas that incorporate felsic continental crust. Cenozoic calderas in western North America and in other intracontinental settings that generated such magmas are promising new targets for lithium exploration because lithium leached from the eruptive products by meteoric and hydrothermal fluids becomes concentrated in clays within caldera lake sediments to potentially economically extractable levels.Lithium is increasingly being utilized for modern technology in the form of lithium-ion batteries. Here, using in situ measurements of quartz-hosted melt inclusions, the authors demonstrate that preserved lake sediments within rhyolitic calderas have the potential to host large lithium-rich clay deposits.

Concepts: Caldera, Felsic, Lithium-ion battery, Electric car, Lava, Granite, Igneous rock, Lithium


Among the paintings and engravings found in the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave (Ardèche, France), several peculiar spray-shape signs have been previously described in the Megaloceros Gallery. Here we document the occurrence of strombolian volcanic activity located 35 km northwest of the cave, and visible from the hills above the cave entrance. The volcanic eruptions were dated, using 40Ar/39Ar, between 29 ± 10 ka and 35 ± 8 ka (2σ), which overlaps with the 14C AMS and thermoluminescence ages of the first Aurignacian occupations of the cave in the Megaloceros Gallery. Our work provides the first evidence of an intense volcanic activity between 40 and 30 ka in the Bas-Vivarais region, and it is very likely that Humans living in the Ardèche river area witnessed one or several eruptions. We propose that the spray-shape signs found in the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave could be the oldest known depiction of a volcanic eruption, predating by more than 34 ka the description by Pliny the Younger of the Vesuvius eruption (AD 79) and by 28 ka the Çatalhöyük mural discovered in central Turkey.

Concepts: Lava, Plinian eruption, Pliny the Elder, 79, Pompeii, Volcano, Herculaneum, Mount Vesuvius


Strong ground motions induce large dynamic stress changes that may disturb the magma chamber of a volcano, thus accelerating the volcanic activity. An underground nuclear explosion test near an active volcano constitutes a direct treat to the volcano. This study examined the dynamic stress changes of the magma chamber of Baekdusan (Changbaishan) that can be induced by hypothetical North Korean nuclear explosions. Seismic waveforms for hypothetical underground nuclear explosions at North Korean test site were calculated by using an empirical Green’s function approach based on a source-spectral model of a nuclear explosion; such a technique is efficient for regions containing poorly constrained velocity structures. The peak ground motions around the volcano were estimated from empirical strong-motion attenuation curves. A hypothetical M7.0 North Korean underground nuclear explosion may produce peak ground accelerations of 0.1684 m/s(2) in the horizontal direction and 0.0917 m/s(2) in the vertical direction around the volcano, inducing peak dynamic stress change of 67 kPa on the volcano surface and ~120 kPa in the spherical magma chamber. North Korean underground nuclear explosions with magnitudes of 5.0-7.6 may induce overpressure in the magma chamber of several tens to hundreds of kilopascals.

Concepts: Caldera, Mantle plume, Hawaii, Basalt, Lava, Volcanology, Magma, Volcano