New Insight Into How Earth Feeds Volcanic Super-eruptions

Posted: Oct 21 2018, 4:12pm CDT | by , Updated: Oct 21 2018, 4:18pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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New Insight into How Earth Feeds Volcanic Super-eruptions
Credit: Massey University

The findings will allow researchers to better understand the long-term development of supervolcanoes.

Super-eruptions are most powerful volcanic eruptions that spew 100 times more superheated gas, ash and rock into the atmosphere than ordinary volcanic eruptions. That’s large enough to devastate the entire planet.

Geologists generally believe that supereruptions are triggered by large reservoirs of magma that form few miles below the surface and simmer for millions of years before erupting. Despite extensive research efforts, they are still debating how magma moves through the Earth’s crust to feed volcanic eruptions. Understanding this process could help predict longevity and impact of a volcanic eruption.

To figure out where magma stays in the earth's crust and for how long, researchers from Vanderbilt University investigated a highly active supervolcano in New Zealand. Taupo Volcanic Zone in northern New Zealand has produced some of the biggest eruptions of the last 2 million years. This particular volcanic zone has been chosen by research team as a case study for its extreme volcanic activity.

Researchers studied volcanic rocks visible in road cuts and other outcrops that have been expelled from the ancient volcanoes. After using thermodynamic models, they concluded that magma moved closer to the surface with each successive eruption.

“As the system resets, the deposits become shallower,” said Vanderbilt University volcanologist Guilherme Gualda "The crust is getting warmer and weaker, so magma can lodge itself at shallower levels.”

More importantly, the crust of Taupo Volcanic Zone is making it more likely for the magma to erupt than be stored in the crust. These frequent and smaller eruptions have possibly prevented a supereruption.

“You have magma sitting there that's crystal-poor, melt-rich for few decades, maybe 100 years, and then it erupts,” said Gualda. “Then another magma body is established, but we don't know how gradually that body assembles. It's a period in which you're increasing the amount of melt in the crust.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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