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Insights into the dynamics of mafic magmatic-hydromagmatic eruptions from volatile degassing behaviour: The Hverfjall Fires, Iceland

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Liu, EJ 
Cashman, KV 
Rust, AC 


The style and intensity of hydromagmatic activity is governed by a complex interplay between the relative volumes of magma and water that interact, their relative viscosities, the depth of subsurface explosions, the substrate properties, and the vent geometry. Fundamental questions remain, however, regarding the role of magmatic vesiculation in determining the dynamics of magma-water interaction (MWI). Petrological reconstructions of magmatic degassing histories are commonly employed to interpret the pre- and syn-eruptive conditions during ‘dry’ magmatic eruptions, but the application of similar techniques to hydromagmatic activity has not yet been fully explored. In this study, we integrate glass volatile measurements (S, Cl, H2O and CO2) with field observations and microtextural measurements to examine the relationship between degassing and eruptive style during the Hverfjall Fires fissure eruption, Iceland. Here, coeval fissure vents produced both ‘dry’ magmatic (Jarðbaðshólar scoria cone complex) and variably wet hydromagmatic (Hverfjall tuff ring) activity, generating physically distinct pyroclastic deposits with contrasting volatile signatures. Matrix glass volatile concentrations in hydromagmatic ash (883 ± 172 [1σ] ppm S; 0.45 ± 0.03 [1σ] wt% H2O; ≤20 ppm CO2) are consistently elevated relative to magmatic ash and scoria lapilli (418 ± 93 [1σ] ppm S; 0.12 ± 0.48 [1σ] wt% H2O; CO2 below detection) and overlap with the range for co-erupted phenocryst-hosted melt inclusions (1522 ± 127 [1σ] ppm S; 165 ± 27 [1σ] ppm Cl). Measurements of hydromagmatic glasses indicate that the magma has degassed between 17 and 70% of its initial sulfur prior to premature quenching at variably elevated confining pressures.

By comparing volatile saturation pressures for both magmatic and hydromagmatic glasses, and how these vary through the eruptive stratigraphy, we place constraints on the conditions of MWI. Crucially, our data demonstrate that the magma was already vesiculating when it encountered groundwater at depths of 100–200 m, and that the external water supply was sufficient to maintain MWI throughout the eruption with no significant vertical or lateral migration of the fragmentation surface. We propose that development of an in-vent water-sediment slurry provides a mechanism through which the elevated confining pressures of ~1.6–2.6 MPa (or up to 6 MPa accounting for uncertainty in CO2 below analytical detection) could be maintained and buffered throughout the eruption, whilst enabling vertical mixing and ejection of fragmented juvenile and lithic material from a range of depths. Importantly, these results demonstrate that the volatile contents of hydromagmatic deposits provide valuable records of (1) the environment of MWI (e.g., groundwater versus surface water, vertical migration of the fragmentation level) and (2) the state of the magma at the time of fragmentation and quenching. We further suggest that the volatile content of tephra glasses provides a reliable alternative (or additional) indicator of a hydromagmatic origin, particularly for reduced Ocean Island Basalts where late-stage volatile saturation and degassing (S, H2O) occurs over a pressure range relevant to typical MWI environments.



Hydromagmatism, Hverfjall fires, Iceland, Volatiles

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research

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Elsevier BV
Postgraduate scholarship from University of Bristol AXA Research Fund Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award Royal Society University Research Fellowship New Researchers Award from the Geologists’ Association