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Chemical variation in magma caused by gas transport

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Kim Berlo
  • Hugh Tuffen
  • Vicki Smith
  • Jonathan Castro
  • David Pyle
  • Tina Geraki
  • Tamsin Mather
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/11/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)436-451
Early online date2/08/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Tuffisite veins are glass-filled fractures formed when magma fragments during degassing within the conduit. These veins form transient channels through which exsolved gases can escape from magma. The purpose of this study is to determine the extent to which chemical heterogeneity within the melt results from gas transport, and assess how this can be used to study magma degassing. Two tuffisite veins from contrasting rhyolitic eruptions at Torfajökull (Iceland) and Chaitén (Chile) were studied in detail. The tuffisite vein from Torfajökull is from a shallow dissected conduit (∼70 ka) that fed a degassed lava flow, while the sample from Chaitén was a bomb ejected during the waning phases of Plinian activity in May 2008. The results of detailed in situ chemical analyses (synchrotron XRF, FTIR, LA-ICP-MS) show that in both veins larger vesiculated fragments are enriched in volatile elements (Torfajökull: H, Li, Cl; Chaitén: Li, Cl, Cu, Zn, As, Sn, Sb) compared to the host, while the surrounding smaller particles are depleted in the Torfajökull vein (Li, Cl, Zn, Br, Rb, Pb), but enriched in the Chaitén vein (K, Cu, Zn, As, Mo, Sb, Pb). The lifespans of both veins and the fluxes of gas and particles through them can be estimated using diffusion profiles and enrichment factors. The Torfajökull vein had a longer lifespan (∼ a day) and low particle velocities (∼cm/s), while the Chaitén vein was shorter lived (<1 hour) with a high gas velocity (∼m/s). These differences are consistent with the contrasting eruption mechanisms (effusive vs. explosive). The amount of magma that degassed through the Chaitén vein is more than ten times the volume of the vein itself, requiring the vein to tap into pre-exsolved gas pockets. This study highlights that tuffisite veins are highly efficient gas pathways and thereby impart chemical diversity in volatile elements on the melt.