Mechanisms of degassing at Nevado del Ruiz volcano, Colombia

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Stix, John
Layne, Graham D.
Williams, S. N.
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Magma transport
Nevado del Ruiz volcano is an andesite stratovolcano located in the northern Andes of Colombia. The volcano erupted on 11 September 1985, 13 November 1985, and 1 September 1989. The last two eruptions emitted juvenile solid material. This paper examines the volatile and light lithophile trace element contents of melt inclusions and matrix glasses from this juvenile material, and proposes a model for degassing within the volcano. Major element distributions in the glasses show two evolutionary trends, with subsidiary points that lie between the two trends. The data suggest the existence of two separate magmas, which have interacted, mingled, and mixed during their ascent and eruption. Water contents in melt inclusions, as determined by secondary ionization mass spectrometric analysis, are generally low, averaging between 1.6 and 3.3 wt.%. Halogen concentrations in the glasses range from 400 to 1200 ppm for fluorine and from 1100 to 1500 ppm for chlorine. Sulphur contents are low, not exceeding 500 ppm, with most glasses containing <200 ppm. Lithium concentrations range from 20 to 40 ppm, beryllium from 1.5 to 2 ppm, and boron exhibits high variability from 30 to 100 ppm. The only significant difference between melt inclusions and matrix glasses is for water, with matrix glasses having significantly lower concentrations (<0.5 wt.%) than the melt inclusions. The generally elevated concentrations of boron in the magma may be a consequence of enrichment in the source region of the magma, i.e. by subduction of altered oceanic crust and/or sediments. Yet the large degree of boron heterogeneity in both melt inclusions and matrix glasses necessitates subsequent addition of boron at shallower depths as well, by the assimilation of crustal sedimentary rocks or by interaction with hydrothermal fluids. Evidence for pre-eruptive magma emplacement at shallow levels is provided by (1) anhydrous mineral assemblages of plagioclase and pyroxene, (2) high silica contents of glasses, and (3) low water contents in melt inclusions. When combined, these observations suggest a period of magma residence at shallow depths, probably <3 km beneath the summit of the volcano. A multistage model of magma transport and degassing involves alternating periods of magma ascent and magma ponding. Initially, volatile-bearing magma ascends from depths of 9–15 km, driven by buoyancy. During decompression, the magma loses gas, particularly CO2 and sulphur. The magma eventually ponds at its neutral buoyancy level. At this point, the gas-saturated magma cools and crystallizes, thereby liberating gas under isobaric conditions. As a result, CO2 is depleted from the magma whereas H2O and SiO2 are enriched. The H2O enrichment is caused by its increased solubility in the magma as CO2 is degassed, whereas SiO2 is enriched by fractional crystallization. The density of the magma decreases as the level of dissolved H2O increases, eventually causing the magma to become buoyant once more and to continue its ascent, either to erupt or to freeze at shallow depths.
Author Posting. © Geological Society, 2003. This article is posted here by permission of Geological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of the Geological Society 160 (2003): 507-521, doi:10.1144/0016-764902-028.
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Journal of the Geological Society 160 (2003): 507-521
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