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Concept: Rhyolite


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


The most viscous volcanic melts and the largest explosive eruptions on our planet consist of calcalkaline rhyolites. These eruptions have the potential to influence global climate. The eruptive products are commonly very crystal-poor and highly degassed, yet the magma is mostly stored as crystal mushes containing small amounts of interstitial melt with elevated water content. It is unclear how magma mushes are mobilized to create large batches of eruptible crystal-free magma. Further, rhyolitic eruptions can switch repeatedly between effusive and explosive eruption styles and this transition is difficult to attribute to the rheological effects of water content or crystallinity. Here we measure the viscosity of a series of melts spanning the compositional range of the Yellowstone volcanic system and find that in a narrow compositional zone, melt viscosity increases by up to two orders of magnitude. These viscosity variations are not predicted by current viscosity models and result from melt structure reorganization, as confirmed by Raman spectroscopy. We identify a critical compositional tipping point, independently documented in the global geochemical record of rhyolites, at which rhyolitic melts fluidize or stiffen and that clearly separates effusive from explosive deposits worldwide. This correlation between melt structure, viscosity and eruptive behaviour holds despite the variable water content and other parameters, such as temperature, that are inherent in natural eruptions. Thermodynamic modelling demonstrates how the observed subtle compositional changes that result in fluidization or stiffening of the melt can be induced by crystal growth from the melt or variation in oxygen fugacity. However, the rheological effects of water and crystal content alone cannot explain the correlation between composition and eruptive style. We conclude that the composition of calcalkaline rhyolites is decisive in determining the mobilization and eruption dynamics of Earth’s largest volcanic systems, resulting in a better understanding of how the melt structure controls volcanic processes.

Concepts: Viscosity, Liquid, Volcano, Glass, Effusive eruption, Rhyolite, Lava, Magma


The emplacement mechanisms of rhyolitic lava flows are enigmatic and, despite high lava viscosities and low inferred effusion rates, can result in remarkably, laterally extensive (>30 km) flow fields. Here we present the first observations of an active, extensive rhyolitic lava flow field from the 2011-2012 eruption at Cordón Caulle, Chile. We combine high-resolution four-dimensional flow front models, created using automated photo reconstruction techniques, with sequential satellite imagery. Late-stage evolution greatly extended the compound lava flow field, with localized extrusion from stalled, ~35 m-thick flow margins creating >80 breakout lobes. In January 2013, flow front advance continued ~3.6 km from the vent, despite detectable lava supply ceasing 6-8 months earlier. This illustrates how efficient thermal insulation by the lava carapace promotes prolonged within-flow horizontal lava transport, boosting the extent of the flow. The unexpected similarities with compound basaltic lava flow fields point towards a unifying model of lava emplacement.

Concepts: Magma, Tuff, Rhyolite, Volcanology, Igneous rock, Volcano, Basalt, Lava


Complete sample digestion is prerequisite for achieving reproducible and accurate analytical results for geological samples. Open vessel acid digestions successfully dissolve mafic samples, but this method cannot achieve complete dissolution of felsic samples due to the presence of refractory minerals such as zircon. In this study, an efficient and simplified digestion technique using the solid compound NH4HF2 in a screw-top vial has been developed for multi-element analysis of different types of rock samples. NH4HF2 has a higher boiling point (239.5 °C) than conventional acids such as HF, HNO3 and HCl, which allows for an elevated digestion temperature in open vessels, enabling the decomposition of refractory phases. Similar to HF, HNO3 and HCl, ultra-pure NH4HF2 can be produced using a conventional PFA sub-boiling (heating and cooling) purification system. A digestion time of 2-3 hours for 200 mg NH4HF2 in a Savillex Teflon vial at 230 °C is sufficient to digest 50 mg of the felsic rock GSP-2, which is about six times faster than using conventional closed vessel acid digestion at 190 °C (high-pressure PTFE digestion bomb). The price of a Savillex Teflon vial is far less than the price of a high-pressure PTFE digestion bomb (consisting of a PTFE inner vessel and an outer stainless steel pressure jacket). Moreover, the NH4HF2-open vessel acid digestion is not hampered by the formation of insoluble fluorides. We have successfully applied the NH4HF2-open vessel acid digestion to the digestion of a series of international geological reference materials, including mafic to felsic igneous rocks and shales. This method provides an effective, simple, economical and comparatively safe dissolution method that combines the advantages of both the open and closed vessel digestion methods.

Concepts: Quartz, Petrology, Rhyolite, Rock, Igneous rock, Felsic, Granite