Bubble-crystal aggregates promote magma chamber overturn in arc crust
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 12:05 PM
Bubble nucleation in melts occurs preferentially on the surfaces of crystals. Of all phases in oxidized melts, magnetite is most favorable for the heterogeneous nucleation of bubbles owing to the high wetting angles at the bubble-crystal-melt interface. Preservation of such relationships in erupted rocks however, is rare owing to overprinting by decompression-induced degassing, shear and bubble detachment during magma ascent. We present evidence from basaltic enclaves preserved in andesite lavas from Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, for a spatial association between magnetite and bubbles that we propose is a relict of the bubble nucleation process at depth. The existence of bubble-crystal aggregates means that magnetite crystals will tend to sink more slowly, and bubbles will rise less fast than for the case of single crystals and bubbles. The behavior of bubble-crystal aggregates will be dependent on their bulk density, which depends on the relative proportion by mass of the magnetite and the bubble and the pressure. In deeper chambers, the smaller mass of exsolved volatiles leads to the prediction that many of the bubble-crystal aggregates are dense and so fall to base of the chamber (and the bubbles are wholly or partially resorbed). In shallower chambers, however, the larger volume and mass of exsolved volatiles would tend to promote buoyant aggregate formation. The presence of the aggregates has implications for the mixing/mingling process when mafic magmas underplate crystal-rich evolved magma bodies in the arc crust. For shallow magma chambers the buoyancy of the aggregates in the underplating mafic magma will either cause vapor accumulation at the magma interface and the formation of mafic inclusions rich in magnetite; or the enhanced density of the aggregates may promote magma chamber overturn and mixing of mafic magmas into the andesites bodies. Both processes may be important over different spatial and time-scales. The overturn mechanism may explain the hybrid features of the andesite, including the presence of cryptic mafic components, reverse zoning of phenocrysts and how volatiles might be sourced from the mafic magmas and distributed within andesite bodies.