The location and timing of magma degassing during Plinian eruptions

Friday, 19 December 2014: 5:30 PM
Thomas Giachetti, Rice UNiversity, Houston, TX, United States and Helge Martin Gonnermann, Rice University, Houston, TX, United States
Water is the most abundant volatile species in explosively erupting silicic magmas and significantly affects magma viscosity, magma fragmentation and the dynamics of the eruption column. The effect that water has on these eruption processes can be modulated by outgassing degassing from a permeable magma. The magnitude, rate and timing of outgassing during magma ascent, in particular in relation to fragmentation, remains a subject of debate. Here we constrain how much, how fast and where the erupting magma lost its water during the 1060 CE Plinian phase of the Glass Mountain eruption of Medicine Lake Volcano, California.

Using thermogravimetric analysis coupled with numerical modeling, we show that the magma lost >90% of its initial water upon eruption. Textural analyses of natural pumices, together with numerical modeling of magma ascent and degassing, indicate that 65-90% of the water exsolved before fragmentation, but very little was able to outgas before fragmentation. The magma attained permeability only within about 1 to 10 seconds before fragmenting and during that time interval permeable gas flow resulted in only a modest amount of gas flux from the un-fragmented magma. Instead, most of the water is lost shortly after fragmentation, because gas can escape rapidly from lapilli-size pyroclasts. This results in an efficient rarefaction of the gas-pyroclast mixture above the fragmentation level, indicating that the development of magma permeability and ensuing permeable outgassing are a necessary condition for sustain explosive eruptions of silicic magma. Magma permeability is thus a double-edged sword, it facilitates both, the effusive and the explosive eruption of silicic magma.