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Volcanoes, Magma &


Earth Science and the Environment (4th

Thompson & Turk
8.1 Magma
► Creation
of magma –
rocks melt more easily with:
 Increasing temperature
 Decreasing pressure
 Addition of water
8.1 Magma
► Environments of magma formation
 At the axis of Mid-Ocean Ridges
► e.g. East Pacific Rise, Mid-Atlantic Ridge
 Above Mantle plumes
► e.g. Hawaii, Iceland, Yellowstone
 Above Subduction zones
► e.g. Andes Mountains, Marianas Islands
At a mid-ocean
ridge the crust
and lithosphere
are thin, which
means that hot
is nearer to the
surface, which
is therefore at a
lower pressure
than normal.
The over-lying
crust is
fractured, which
allows water to
seep down and
come in contact A spreading center, therefore, has all
with the hot the conditions necessary to melt
rock below. rock: High heat, low pressure and
The lithosphere above a mantle plume (hot spot) is subjected to high
heat, which cause it to bulge upwards and thin. This dynamic force
lowers the pressure on the underlying asthenosphere and induces
The crust atop the descending lithosphere in a subduction zone is
heated and releases water as it sinks, which eventually leads to
Although most (about 80%) of the volcanism around the world is
submarine and occurs along the mid-ocean ridge system, volcanoes
forming above subduction zones account for most of the subaerial
volcanism. The subduction zones that lie along the margins of the
Pacific Ocean produce about 75% of the subaerial volcanoes, which are
collectively referred to as the “Ring of Fire”.
8.4 Magma behavior
► Magma rises
 Cooling solidifies
 Lower pressure keeps it liquid

► Magma composition differences

 Granitic – 70% silica, up to 10% water
 Basaltic – 50% silica, 1-2% water
8.4 Magma behavior
► Effects of silica
 High silica content increases magma viscosity

► Effects of water
 Increased water lowers solidification
temperature (dry magma solidifies quicker)
 Rising magma loses water, hardens quicker
Intrusive Structures
► Pluton – a bulbous mass of magma that
intrudes into and solidifies within the crust.
► Intrusive structures:
 Batholith – a collection of plutons that form a
body the size of a mountain range, exposed by
erosion, typically bigger than 100 km2
 Stock – an irregularly shaped intrusive body that
is similar in size to a pluton (1 to 10 km2)
 Dike – a discordant tabular intrusive body
 Sill – a concordant tabular intrusive body
Batholiths form above subduction zones as plutons of magma collect and
cool within the crust beneath a volcanic arc. The plutonic rock of a
batholith is exposed after subduction and volcanism cease and the
overlying volcanic rocks have eroded away. A batholith is presently
Plutons of the Sierra Nevada batholith are exposed by glacial erosion here
in Yosemite Valley. The bright granite face of the El Capitan pluton is over
A pluton or stock may supply magma to a variety of smaller intrusive
structures such as dikes and sills, as well as being the reservoir for
magma that erupts at the surface to form a volcano or lava flow.
Dike Dikes and Sills are tabular
intrusive bodies, which are easily
recognized by their relationship
with surrounding rocks. Generally
dikes form as walls, and sills as
layers, such that the former cuts
across layers and the latter lies
between layers of sedimentary
8.6 Volcanoes
► Volcanic Vents are places where magma and
related fluids erupt onto the surface
 Vents typically occur as tubes and fissures

► Volcanoes form where repeated eruptions occur

from a central vent.
 A volcano is a conical pile of erupted materials
A volcanic crater is a circular depression formed around a central vent,
usually at the peak of a volcano. In the foreground below are two small
craters sitting within a larger crater, which itself sits within an even larger
crater whose walls are the background.
8.6 Volcanoes
► Effusive (Calm) Eruptions Produce Lava
Lava – magma at the surface, flowing or solid
Basalt – the most common type of lava has two varieties:
 Pahoehoe – ropy surface, easy flowing lava
 Aa – rubbly surface, viscous (stiff) lava

► Explosive (Violent) Eruptions Produce

Pyroclastics – fragmental and glassy materials
 Volcanic Ash
 Cinders
 Volcanic Breccia (Dominated by Rock Fragments)
8.6 Volcanoes
► Fissure
eruptions – low viscosity lava
exuding from cracks

► Floodbasalt – very large, rapid, fissure


► Lava(basalt) plateau – many cubic

kilometers sized event
The Columbia Plateau
The plateau
formed around
15 million
years ago by
eruptions of
flood basalt
that covers an
area of about
200,000 Km2
and in places is
up to to 3 Km
Individual flow layers of the Columbia River Basalt are between
15 and 100 meters thick. Good exposures are found where the
Columbia River and its tributaries have eroded deep canyons
through this jointed rock.


The Devil’s Post
located in the
Sierra Nevada,
illustrates the
phenomenon of
jointing, which
forms as a lava
flow cools and

A view from above reveals

their hexagonal shape
8.6 Volcanoes
► Shield volcanoes
 Built by effusive eruptions of basalt
 Gently sloped
 The largest of volcanoes

► e.g. Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Iceland

Shield volcanoes form the largest and tallest volcanoes on earth,
despite their gentle slopes. They form from copious amounts of basalt
lava erupted from a summit crater as well as from fissures around their
flanks. Two common types of basalt lava (Pahoehoe and Aa) erupt from
Hot Spot volcanoes like this one (Mt. Skjoldbreidier, Iceland). The two
are differentiated by their relative viscosities and surface textures.
Pahoehoe is thin, gas-rich basalt lava. It advances quickly as a narrow
stream, often within tubes, and has a smooth, ropey surface.
Aa is stiff, gas-poor basalt lava. It advances slowly as a thick sheet with
a steep front and has a rough, blocky surface.
8.6 Volcanoes
► Cinder cones
 Formed of pyroclastic fragments (ash &
 Often steep, small and symmetrical
 May from abruptly (hours or days)

► Eruptions are driven by escaping

This cinder cone in Bolivia has a symmetrical shape and a well formed
crater (circular depression) at its peak.
8.6 Volcanoes
► Composite cones
 aka: stratovolcanoes
 Layers of lava and pyroclastics
accumulate from both effusive and
explosive eruptions
 Relatively steep-sided
 Associated with subduction zones
Mount Rainier is a classic example of a composite volcano. Its presence is a
constant reminder to the residents of Seattle of their precarious location
above a subduction zone where tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions
and mudslides have occurred in the past and are surely to occur at anytime
in the near future.
Ash flows and Calderas
► AshFlow – a cloud of pyroclastics that flows
along and buries the surface
 Nueè ardente – “glowing cloud”
 Hot, Fast (200 km/h), Far-reaching (100 km)

► Caldera – collapsed roof of magma chamber

 Large (10+ km) circular depression, steep sides
 Associated with catastrophic eruptions of Ash
sequence of events
leading to the
formation of a
caldera involves
creation of “ring”
fractures in the crust
that lies above a
rising pluton of
magma. The circular
depression of the
caldera is formed
during the eruption
as magma is ejected
through the
fractures and the
unsupported crust
sinks. This
eruption is driven by
escaping gases and
produces a huge
Crater Lake in southern Oregon fills a caldera that formed about
7000 years ago by the eruption of Mt. Mazama. The caldera is
about 10 km across.
8.7 Volcanic explosions:
► Yellowstone – 3 calderas
 Last eruptions (1.9 mya) – 2500 km3 of pyroclastic
materials (in 1980 Mt St Helens erupted only 1 km3)
 (0.6 mya) – 1000 km3 of ash & debris

► Long Valley Caldera (Bishop Tuff ~ 0.8 mya)

 170x larger than 1980 Mt St Helens eruption
 Hot Springs and CO2 releases denote continued
magma activity today
Fig. 8.30, p.199
8.7 Volcanic explosions:
► MtVesuvius – a composite volcano
near Naples, Italy
 Buried the cities of Pompeii &
Herculaneum during its 79 A.D. eruption
 5-8 meter thick ash flow deposits
 Intermittent activity in early – mid 1900s
 Magma still underlies Vesuvius
Excavations at Pompeii revealed casts of humans buried in the ash
flow deposits

Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79

Plateaus and Calderas are not volcanoes. But they do represent
end members of the spectrum of eruption styles from most gentle
(effusive) to most violent (explosive), respectively. Although the
magma that erupts during formation of a caldera can be called
“granitic” it is more correct to refer to the erupted material as
Rhyolite. The true volcanoes are accumulations of materials
erupted from a central vent. From largest to smallest they are the
shield volcano, composite volcano, and cinder cone.