Unlocking Magma’s Mysteries

Understanding magma’s behavior may predict eruptions and reveal historic landscapes

By: Ellen Beshuk

Sometimes magma calmly flows; other times, it explodes. Ph.D. candidate Ivana Torres-Ewert is figuring out why with her magma-making machine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Her discoveries could help people know where to go when a volcano explodes and provide a foundation for further volcanic research.

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Understanding highly explosive basaltic eruptions using simulations

Featured image: A fissure cone of Kīlauea (Hawaii) erupting during the 2018 eruptive episode. via Wikimedia commons (Public domain)

Paper: Role of volatiles in highly explosive basaltic eruptions.

Authors: Giuseppe La Spina, Fabio Arzilli, Mike R. Burton, Margherita Polacci, Amanda B. Clarke

When we think of Hawaii or Iceland, the first thing that comes to mind is volcanoes. Lava fountains spew out basaltic lava, which silently meanders its way to the ocean. The notion that basaltic eruptions are always less explosive compared to other types like rhyolitic and andesitic eruptions is not entirely true. For example, Mount Etna in Italy has produced highly explosive basaltic eruptions such as the 122 BCE Plinian Eruption and another in 1669. Because highly explosive basaltic eruptions are not very common, they’re not fully understood leaving scientists wondering “What could be the reason behind this erratic behaviour?”

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What Makes a Supervolcano “Super”?

Featured Image: Yellowstone National Park attracts millions of people a year and has been a major focal point for discussions about supervolcanoes in recent decades. Public domain image via pixabay.

Paper: Capturing the Extreme in Volcanology: The Case for the Term “Supervolcano”

Authors: S. De Silva & S. Self

The earth sciences can be challenging to communicate. Definitions change over time and, in some cases, become widely reported in the media and often without a formal definition. A recent paper by Shanaka de Silva and Stephen Self addresses these issues surrounding the popular word “supervolcano.” The authors discuss the variables used to distinguish between these extreme events and regular eruptions. They then suggest a new working definition for researchers to use moving forward, clearing up much confusion that surrounds the word. The concept of supereruptions exploded in popularity after the 2005 Discovery TV/BBC documentary Supervolcano, promoted with the by-line “Is Yellowstone Overdue?

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