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Concept: Magma


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


We report exceptional preservation of fossil wood buried deeply in a kimberlite pipe that intruded northwestern Canada’s Slave Province 53.3±0.6 million years ago (Ma), revealed during excavation of diamond source rock. The wood originated from forest surrounding the eruption zone and collapsed into the diatreme before resettling in volcaniclastic kimberlite to depths >300 m, where it was mummified in a sterile environment. Anatomy of the unpermineralized wood permits conclusive identification to the genus Metasequoia (Cupressaceae). The wood yields genuine cellulose and occluded amber, both of which have been characterized spectroscopically and isotopically. From cellulose δ(18)O and δ(2)H measurements, we infer that Early Eocene paleoclimates in the western Canadian subarctic were 12-17°C warmer and four times wetter than present. Canadian kimberlites offer Lagerstätte-quality preservation of wood from a region with limited alternate sources of paleobotanical information.

Concepts: Magma, Craton, Pinophyta, Wood, Provinces and territories of Canada, Diamond, Canada, Northwest Territories


The Palaeogene Ardnamurchan central igneous complex, NW Scotland, was a defining place for the development of the classic concepts of cone-sheet and ring-dyke emplacement and has thus fundamentally influenced our thinking on subvolcanic structures. We have used the available structural information on Ardnamurchan to project the underlying three-dimensional (3D) cone-sheet structure. Here we show that a single elongate magma chamber likely acted as the source of the cone-sheet swarm(s) instead of the traditionally accepted model of three successive centres. This proposal is supported by the ridge-like morphology of the Ardnamurchan volcano and is consistent with the depth and elongation of the gravity anomaly underlying the peninsula. Our model challenges the traditional model of cone-sheet emplacement at Ardnamurchan that involves successive but independent centres in favour of a more dynamical one that involves a single, but elongate and progressively evolving magma chamber system.

Concepts: Caldera, Basalt, Igneous rock, Earth, System, Volcanology, Structure, Magma


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


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


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


The end-Triassic extinction is one of the Phanerozoic’s largest mass extinctions. This extinction is typically attributed to climate change associated with degassing of basalt flows from the central Atlantic magmatic province (CAMP). However, recent work suggests that the earliest known CAMP basalts occur above the extinction horizon and that climatic and biotic changes began before the earliest known CAMP eruptions. Here we present new high-precision U-Pb ages from CAMP mafic intrusive units, showing that magmatic activity was occurring ∼100 Kyr ago before the earliest known eruptions. We correlate the early magmatic activity with the onset of changes to the climatic and biotic records. We also report ages from sills in an organic rich sedimentary basin in Brazil that intrude synchronously with the extinction suggesting that degassing of these organics contributed to the climate change which drove the extinction. Our results indicate that the intrusive record from large igneous provinces may be more important for linking to mass extinctions than the eruptive record.

Concepts: Dinosaur, Extinction, Earth, Extinction event, Magma, Petrology, Basalt, Igneous rock


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


Quartz is a common phase in high-silica igneous rocks and is resistant to post-eruptive alteration, thus offering a reliable record of magmatic processes in silicic magma systems. Here we employ the 75 ka Toba super-eruption as a case study to show that quartz can resolve late-stage temporal changes in magmatic δ(18)O values. Overall, Toba quartz crystals exhibit comparatively high δ(18)O values, up to 10.2‰, due to magma residence within, and assimilation of, local granite basement. However, some 40% of the analysed quartz crystals display a decrease in δ(18)O values in outermost growth zones compared to their cores, with values as low as 6.7‰ (maximum ∆core-rim = 1.8‰). These lower values are consistent with the limited zircon record available for Toba, and the crystallisation history of Toba quartz traces an influx of a low-δ(18)O component into the magma reservoir just prior to eruption. Here we argue that this late-stage low-δ(18)O component is derived from hydrothermally-altered roof material. Our study demonstrates that quartz isotope stratigraphy can resolve magmatic events that may remain undetected by whole-rock or zircon isotope studies, and that assimilation of altered roof material may represent a viable eruption trigger in large Toba-style magmatic systems.

Concepts: Basalt, Quartz, Rock, Petrology, Magma, Pegmatite, Igneous rock, Granite