Volcanologists Reveal Interesting Information After Analyzing Crystals Deep Inside a Volcano

Volcanologists Reveal Interesting Information After Analyzing Crystals Deep Inside a Volcano

After checking crystals once deep inside a volcano, researchers are confident that they can better predict many factors that are linked to timing of eruption of a volcano. Volcanologists worked on an interesting project have published a research paper in journal Science after checking magma reservoir that lies below New Zealand's Mount Tarawera volcano. The research team added that before its eruption, a volcano offers many signals and it will be important to decipher those signals if we have to improve our prediction about volcanic eruptions.

If researchers can accurately predict the timing of eruption of a volcano, many communities living in regions with high risk can be helped in time. The research team added that at the Mount Tarawera volcano, they are finding a colder, more solid place than they had predicted. The study team evaluated zircon crystals which were earlier, deep inside a volcano when the volcano erupted nearly 700 years ago.

The research project was funded by the National Science Foundation. Jennifer Wade, a program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, said, “To understand volcanic eruptions, we need to be able to decipher signals the volcano gives us before it erupts. This study backs up the clock to the time before an eruption, and uses signals in crystals to understand when magma goes from being stored to being mobilized for an eruption.”

Kari Cooper, a geoscientist at the University of California (UC), Davis and corresponding author on the paper, informed, “Our concept of what a magma reservoir looks like has to change. Instead of trying to piece together the wreckage, the crystals can tell us what was going on while they were below the surface, including the run-up to an eruption.”

The research paper further informed…

Geologists have occasionally drilled into magma by accident or design, but heat and pressure destroy any instruments placed into it.

By studying trace elements in seven zircon crystals, the scientists determined when the crystals formed and how long they were exposed to high heat (more than 700 degrees Celsius or 1,292 degrees Fahrenheit). The crystals provided information about the part of the magma reservoir where they resided.

The researchers found that all but one of the seven crystals were at least tens of thousands of years old, but had spent only a small percentage (less than about four percent) of that time exposed to molten magma.

The picture that emerges, Cooper said, is less a seething mass of molten rock than something like a snow cone: mostly solid and crystalline, with a little liquid seeping through it. To create an eruption, a certain amount of solid, crystalline magma has to melt and mobilize, possibly by interacting with hotter liquid stored elsewhere in the reservoir.

The pre-eruption magma likely draws material from different parts of the reservoir, which takes place over decades to centuries -- very quickly, in geologic time. That relatively fast process implies that scientists could identify volcanoes at the highest risk of eruption by looking for those with the most mobile magma.