Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Hot Stuff: Magma at Shallow Depth Under Hawaii

Ohio State University researchers have found a new way to gauge the depth of the magma chamber that forms the Hawaiian Island volcanic chain, and determined that the magma lies much closer to the surface than previously thought.

The finding could help scientists predict when Hawaiian volcanoes are going to erupt. It also suggests that Hawaii holds great potential for thermal energy.

Julie Ditkof, an honors undergraduate student in earth sciences at Ohio State, described the study at the American Geophysical Union Meeting in San Francisco on Tuesday, December 14.

For her honors thesis, Ditkof took a technique that her advisor Michael Barton, professor of earth sciences, developed to study magma in Iceland, and applied it to Hawaii.

She discovered that magma lies an average of 3 to 4 kilometers (about 1.9 to 2.5 miles) beneath the surface of Hawaii.

“Hawaii was already unique among volcanic systems, because it has such an extensive plumbing system, and the magma that erupts has a unique and variable chemical composition,” Ditkof explained. “Now we know the chamber is at a shallow depth not seen anywhere else in the world.”

For example, Barton determined that magma chambers beneath Iceland lie at an average depth of 20 kilometers.

While that means the crust beneath Hawaii is much thinner than the crust beneath Iceland, Hawaiians have nothing to fear.

“The crust in Hawaii has been solidifying from eruptions for more than 300,000 years now. The crust doesn’t get consumed by the magma chamber. It floats on top,” Ditkof explained.

The results could help settle two scientific debates, however.

Researchers have wondered whether more than one magma chamber was responsible for the varying chemical compositions, even though seismological studies indicated only one chamber was present.

Meanwhile, those same seismological studies pegged the depth as shallow, while petrologic studies – studies of rock composition – pegged it deeper.

There has never been a way to prove who was right, until now.

“We suspected that the depth was actually shallow, but we wanted to confirm or deny all those other studies with hard data,” Barton said.

He and Ditkof determined that there is one large magma chamber just beneath the entire island chain that feeds the Hawaiian volcanoes through many different conduits.

They came to this conclusion after Ditkof analyzed the chemical composition of nearly 1,000 magma samples. From the ratio of some elements to others – aluminum to calcium, for example, or calcium to magnesium – she was able to calculate the pressure at which the magma had crystallized.

For his studies of Iceland, Barton created a methodology for converting those pressure calculations to depth. When Ditkof applied that methodology, she obtained an average depth of 3 to 4 kilometers.

Researchers could use this technique to regularly monitor pressures inside the chamber and make more precise estimates of when eruptions are going to occur.

Barton said that, ultimately, the finding might be more important in terms of energy.

“Hawaii has huge geothermal resources that haven’t been tapped fully,” he said, and quickly added that scientists would have to determine whether tapping that energy was practical – or safe.

“You’d have to drill some test bore holes. That’s dangerous on an active volcano, because then the lava could flow down and wipe out your drilling rig.”

Contact: Julie Ditkof, (614) 292-3307;
Michael Barton, (614) 292-3132;
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475;

Pam Frost Gorder | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data
22.03.2018 | University of Southampton

nachricht New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world
22.03.2018 | University of Cincinnati

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>