Magma Dynamics in Dome-Building Volcanoes
Abstract:The frequent and, as yet, unpredictable transition from effusive to explosive volcanic behaviour is common to active composite volcanoes, yet our understanding of the processes which control this evolution is poor. The rheology of magma, dictated by its composition, porosity and crystal content, is integral to eruption behaviour and during ascent magma behaves in an increasingly rock-like manner. This behaviour, on short timescales in the upper conduit, provides exceptionally dynamic conditions that favour strain localisation and failure. Seismicity released by this process can be mimicked by damage accumulation that releases acoustic signals on the laboratory scale, showing that the failure of magma is intrinsically strain-rate dependent.
This character aids the development of shear zones in the conduit, which commonly fracture seismogenically, producing fault surfaces that control the last hundreds of meters of ascent by frictional slip. High-velocity rotary shear (HVR) experiments demonstrate that at ambient temperatures, gouge behaves according to Byerlee’s rule at low slip velocities. At rock-rock interfaces, mechanical work induces comminution of asperities and heating which, if sufficient, may induce melting and formation of pseudotachylyte. The viscosity of the melt, so generated, controls the subsequent lubrication or resistance to slip along the fault plane thanks to non-Newtonian suspension rheology. The bulk composition, mineralogy and glass content of the magma all influence frictional behaviour, which supersedes buoyancy as the controlling factor in magma ascent.
In the conduit of dome-building volcanoes, the fracture and slip processes are further complicated: slip-rate along the conduit margin fluctuates. The shear-thinning frictional melt yields a tendency for extremely unstable slip thanks to its pivotal position with regard to the glass transition. This thermo-kinetic transition bestows the viscoelastic melt with the ability to either flow or fracture: velocity-dependence then acts as an important feedback mechanism on the slip plane, accentuating stick-slip cycles that bring the magma, step-wise, to the surface accompanied by characteristic repetitive seismic events.