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Magma Crystals Provide “Amazing Snapshots” of Volcanic Activity

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Research shedding light on the internal “plumbing” of volcanoes may help scientists better understand volcanic eruptions and unrest. The study, led by Dr Teresa Ubide of the University of Queensland and published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta (, analysed crystals in Italy’s famous Mount Etna to reveal how quickly magma moves to the surface.

“By looking at the so-called magma plumbing systems we can better interpret the signs of magma movement under our feet,” Ubide said. “The new information on magma transport prior to past volcanic eruptions can provide context to help better respond to future monitoring signals, like seismic measurements from earthquakes.”

Ubide and her team have analysed variations in the chemical composition of volcanic crystals, which form in a chemical pattern known as sector zoning. “Volcanologists and mineralogists have observed sector zoning in crystals for decades, noticing that it might develop when crystals form rapidly,” she said.

“But because the exact origin and implications of sector-zoned crystals in magma were poorly understood, they were typically disregarded in the study of pre-eruptive processes inside volcanoes. Now we’ve discovered that they not only record detailed magmatic histories and eruption triggers, but might also...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.