The reason may be counter-intuitive, but the more magma crystallizes, the hotter it gets and the more likely a volcano will erupt, according to a team of scientists that includes a University of Oregon geologist. The knowledge likely will aid monitoring of conditions at Mount St. Helens and other volcanic hot spots around the world.
Reporting in the Sept. 7 issue of the journal Nature, the researchers show that rapid crystallization of magma within one to two kilometers of the surface (about one-half to one mile) causes magma to heat up to as much as 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit).
"While this sort of heating has been expected in theory, we are the first to show that we can measure it," said Katharine Cashman, a professor of geologic sciences at the University of Oregon. "These results have important consequences for models of magma ascent beneath volcanoes, as increasing the melt temperatures causes the melt viscosity to decrease so that it can flow more easily, like heating up a jar of honey to allow the honey to flow out of the jar."
Explosive volcanic eruptions are fueled by the escape of volcanic gases from magma stored in underground reservoirs and pipes several kilometers below the surface. Predicting such eruptions requires a real-time knowledge of just where the magma is at any one time and what it is doing.
"This work is now being used to gauge the direction of the volcanic activity currently happening at Mount St. Helens and could be applied to any active volcano for which monitoring and petrological records are available," said Jon Blundy, professor of earth sciences at the University of Bristol (United Kingdom), in a news release.
Cashman and Blundy have now collaborated since 1998, when Blundy took a sabbatical at the University of Oregon, on four published studies on Mount St. Helens, located 53 miles northeast of Portland, Ore. Cashman has studied the volcano and similar ones elsewhere for more than a decade.
The latest study was a follow-up to one Blundy and Cashman published in Geology last year (October 2005), in which they used small pockets of melt that get trapped in crystals as they expand to demonstrate that the crystals grow by decompression as magma rises toward the surface. That paper also showed that these crystals grow rapidly, in months rather than years. The new study refined their conclusions in Geology by using experimental calibrations to show the rapid heating as magma nears the surface.
"This may sound counter-intuitive, but think about the need to add heat to something to melt it," Cashman said.
In this follow-up study to last year's report, the researchers were able to reconstruct changes in pressure, temperature and crystallization that occur in magma before an eruption. They showed that as pressure decreases, crystallinity increases; the more magma crystallizes, the hotter it gets.
The finding that a drop in pressure rather than a loss of heat to surrounding rocks, as previously thought, means that there are more possibilities for eruption dynamics, the researchers concluded.
If ascending magma is able to heat itself up simply by crystallizing, they report, it may provide an important trigger for eruption without the need to invoke an extraneous heat source such as a shot of hotter magma from deep below the surface. The new findings also suggest the possibility that volcanic crystals grow in response to decompression by heating on an unexpectedly short timescale of several years, a period during which volcanoes can be more effectively monitored.
Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Wintertime Arctic sea ice growth slows long-term decline: NASA
07.12.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Why Tehran Is Sinking Dangerously
06.12.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals
Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.
Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.
Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...
Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.
The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
03.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Life Sciences
10.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
10.12.2018 | Life Sciences