Influence of eruptive style on volcanic gas emission chemistry and temperature


Gas bubbles form as magmas ascend in the crust and exsolve volatiles. These bubbles evolve chemically and physically as magma decompression and crystallization proceed. It is generally assumed that the gas remains in thermal equilibrium with the melt but the relationship between gas and melt redox state is debated. Here, using absorption spectroscopy, we report the composition of gases emitted from the lava lake of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaii, and calculate equilibrium conditions for the gas emissions. Our observations span a transition between more and less vigorous-degassing regimes. They reveal a temperature range of up to 250 °C, and progressive oxidation of the gas, relative to solid rock buffers, with decreasing gas temperature. We suggest that these phenomena are the result of changing gas bubble size. We find that even for more viscous magmas, fast-rising bubbles can cool adiabatically, and lose the redox signature of their associated melts. This process can result in rapid changes in the abundances of redox-sensitive gas species. Gas composition is monitored at many volcanoes in support of hazard assessment but time averaging of observations can mask such variability arising from the dynamics of degassing. In addition, the observed redox decoupling between gas and melt calls for caution in using lava chemistry to infer the composition of associated volcanic gases.

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Fig. 1: Instrument set up and lava lake behaviour at Halema’uma’u on 5 March 2013.
Fig. 2: Observed and calculated gas properties for glass samples dredged from the Puna ridge.
Fig. 3: Computed equilibrium temperature and fO2 for spectrosccopic measurements of gas emissions from Kīlauea’s lava lake.
Fig. 4: Amount of gas cooling as a function of final bubble radius (at the surface) and magma viscosity.


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This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (through the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tectonics and grant NE/N009312/1) and LabEx VOLTAIRE (ANR-10-LABX-100-01). Y.M. received additional support from the Leverhulme Trust. We thank P. Kelly (US Geological Survey) for his review of the pre-submission manuscript. We are grateful to V. Tsanev for discussion on gas radiation at high temperature and pressure.

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All authors contributed to preparation and revision of the manuscript. C.O. analysed and modelled spectroscopic data; B.S. modelled the melt-inclusion data; A.W. and C.O. developed the bubble-cooling model; A.J.S. and T.E. led the field campaign; and Y.M. contributed wider context on melt redox evolution.

Correspondence to Clive Oppenheimer.

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