Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hot Stuff: Magma at Shallow Depth Under Hawaii

15.12.2010
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; Ditkof.1@osu.edu
Michael Barton, (614) 292-3132; Barton.2@osu.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu.

Pam Frost Gorder | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Colorado River's connection with the ocean was a punctuated affair
16.11.2017 | University of Oregon

nachricht Researchers create largest, longest multiphysics earthquake simulation to date
14.11.2017 | Gauss Centre for Supercomputing

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>