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The role of volatiles in magma chamber dynamics


Many andesitic volcanoes exhibit effusive eruption activity1, with magma volumes as large as 107–109 m3 erupted at rates of 1–10 m3 s-1 over periods of years or decades. During such eruptions, many complex cycles in eruption rates have been observed, with periods ranging from hours to years2,3,4,5,6,7. Longer-term trends have also been observed, and are thought to be associated with the continuing recharge of magma from deep in the crust and with waning of overpressure in the magma reservoir. Here we present a model which incorporates effects due to compressibility of gas in magma. We show that the eruption duration and volume of erupted magma may increase by up to two orders of magnitude if the stored internal energy associated with dissolved volatiles can be released into the magma chamber. This mechanism would be favoured in shallow chambers or volatile-rich magmas and the cooling of magma by country rock may enhance this release of energy, leading to substantial increases in eruption rate and duration.

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Figure 1: Schematic of magma reservoir.
Figure 2: Magma compressibility as a function of pressure.
Figure 3: Eruption volume and volume eruption rate.
Figure 4: Variation of eruption rate for a silicic magma at a depth of 5 km with 3.5, 3.4 and 3.3 wt% volatiles, accounting for the cooling of the magma at a rate of 10-6 K s-1 according to equation (4).


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We thank S. Sparks for comments and suggestions, and S. Blake and C. Jaupart for critiques on a first draft of this paper.

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Correspondence to Herbert E. Huppert.

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Huppert, H., Woods, A. The role of volatiles in magma chamber dynamics. Nature 420, 493–495 (2002).

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