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Storage and Eruption of Mushy Magma Systems (STEMMS)

Storage and Eruption of Mushy Magma Systems (STEMMS)

Volcanic eruptions are major natural hazards, affecting life, health and financial stability across the globe: more than 800m people live within 100km of an active volcano [1]. Forecasting of volcanic eruptions is the ‘grand challenge’ of volcanology, but our ability to link geophysical observations of volcanic unrest at the Earth’s surface, to petrological and geological observations of active or ancient subterranean volcanic systems, is poor. This project seeks to address two outstanding questions:

  • how are large volumes of magma accumulated within the Earth’s crust? and
  • if magma is stored as ‘crystal mush’, how, and how fast, are these mushes subsequently mobilised for eruption?

STEMMS will focus on understanding the physical behaviour of the mush (as controlled by its crystal-scale microstructure), and the potential for the mush to be mobilised by growth of bubbles that form when the melt becomes saturated in volatiles (i.e., the timing of volatile saturation).

STEMMS aims to develop a new framework to distinguish crystal mushes that are highly sensitive to internal eruption triggering in response to gas pressurisation, from crystal mushes that can only be remobilised through significant external thermal inputs (e.g. an influx of new melt). We hope that this new framework will help inform and improve approaches to volcano monitoring and eruption forecasting.

[1] Brown et al. (2015) In: Loughlin et al. (eds) Global Volcanic Hazards and Risk. Cambridge University Press, p223-232

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