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Magma Stored for a Thousand Years Took Only Days to Erupt

In a new study by geoscientists, they were able to make estimates on how long magma from the volcano Theistareykir was stored deep in the Earth and how long it took for it to travel to the surface using something called crystal clocks.

To determine how long the magma was stored at the Moho before erupting, the team used a volcanic mineral called spinel as a crystal stopwatch.
“The elements in the crystal want to be in equilibrium with the surroundings,” Mutch explained.
As the elements equilibrate by diffusing out of the spinel, the mineral’s composition changes, creating a kind of crystal clock. Using known diffusion rates for aluminum and chromium, the team was able to determine how long the minerals were stored in the melt before it erupted, in this case about a thousand years, they wrote in Science.

This gives scientists more insight on the magmatic systems that lie underground and perhaps it may also provide a framework of predicting eruptions of other volcanoes with the model that they used.

(Image credit: Euan Mutch)


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