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Igneous rock
Amygdaloidal andesite.jpg
A sample of andesite (dark groundmass) with amygdaloidal vesicles filled with zeolite. Diameter of view is 8 cm.
Primary Intermediate: plagioclase (often andesine) and pyroxene or hornblende
Secondary Magnetites, biotite, sphene, and quartz

Andesite ( /ˈændəzt/ ) [1] is a volcanic rock of intermediate composition. In a general sense, it is the intermediate type between silica-poor basalt and silica-rich rhyolite. It is fine-grained (aphanitic) to porphyritic in texture, and is composed predominantly of sodium-rich plagioclase plus pyroxene or hornblende. [2]


Andesite is the extrusive equivalent of plutonic diorite. Characteristic of subduction zones, andesite represents the dominant rock type in island arcs. The average composition of the continental crust is andesitic. [3] Along with basalts, andesites are a component of the Martian crust.

The name andesite is derived from the Andes mountain range, where this rock type is found in abundance. It was first applied by Christian Leopold von Buch in 1826. [4]


QAPF diagram with basalt/andesite field highlighted in yellow. Andesite is distinguished from basalt by SiO2 > 52%. Basalt qapf.jpg
QAPF diagram with basalt/andesite field highlighted in yellow. Andesite is distinguished from basalt by SiO2 > 52%.
Andesite is field O2 in the TAS classification. TAS-Diagramm-andesite.png
Andesite is field O2 in the TAS classification.

Andesite is an aphanitic (fine-grained) igneous rock that is intermediate in its content of silica and low in alkali metals. It has less than 20% quartz and 10% feldspathoid by volume, with at least 65% of the feldspar in the rock consisting of plagioclase. This places andesite in the basalt/andesite field of the QAPF diagram. Andesite is further distinguished from basalt by its silica content of over 52%. [5] [6] [7] [8] However, it is often not possible to determine the mineral composition of volcanic rocks, due to their very fine grain size, and andesite is then defined chemically as volcanic rock with a content of 57% to 63% silica and not more than about 6% alkali metal oxides. This places andesite in the O2 field of the TAS classification. Basaltic andesite, with a content of 52% to 57% silica, is represented by the O1 field of the TAS classification but is not a distinct rock type in the QAPF classification. [8]

Andesite is usually light to dark gray in colour, due to its content of hornblende or pyroxene minerals. [2] but can exhibit a wide range of shading. Darker andesite can be difficult to distinguish from basalt, but a common rule of thumb, used away from the laboratory, is that andesite has a color index less than 35. [9]

The plagioclase in andesite varies widely in sodium content, from anorthite to oligoclase, but is typically andesine, in which anorthite makes up about 40 mol% of the plagioclase. The pyroxene minerals that may be present include augite, pigeonite, or orthopyroxene. Magnetite, zircon, apatite, ilmenite, biotite, and garnet are common accessory minerals. [10] Alkali feldspar may be present in minor amounts.

Andesite is usually porphyritic, containing larger crystals (phenocrysts) of plagioclase formed prior to the extrusion that brought the magma to the surface, embedded in a finer-grained matrix. Phenocrysts of pyroxene or hornblende are also common. [11] These minerals have the highest melting temperatures of the typical minerals that can crystallize from the melt [12] and are therefore the first to form solid crystals. Classification of andesites may be refined according to the most abundant phenocryst. For example, if hornblende is the principal phenocryst mineral, the andesite will be described as a hornblende andesite.

Andesitic volcanism

Andesite lava typically has a viscosity of 3.5 × 106 cP at 1,200 °C (2,190 °F). This is slightly greater than the viscosity of smooth peanut butter. [13] As a result, andesitic volcanism is often explosive, forming tuffs and agglomerates. Andesite vents tend to build up composite volcanoes rather than the shield volcanoes characteristic of basalt, with its much lower viscosity resulting from its lower silica content and higher eruption temperature. [14]

Block lava at Fantastic Lava Beds near Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park Block lava in Lassen Volcanic National Park.jpg
Block lava at Fantastic Lava Beds near Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Block lava flows are typical of andesitic lavas from composite volcanoes. They behave in a similar manner to ʻaʻā flows but their more viscous nature causes the surface to be covered in smooth-sided angular fragments (blocks) of solidified lava instead of clinkers. As with ʻaʻā flows, the molten interior of the flow, which is kept insulated by the solidified blocky surface, advances over the rubble that falls off the flow front. They also move much more slowly downhill and are thicker in depth than ʻaʻā flows. [15]

Photomicrograph of andesite in thin section (between crossed polars) Andesite pmg ss 2006.jpg
Photomicrograph of andesite in thin section (between crossed polars)
Andesite Mount Zarnov (Vtacnik), Slovakia Zarnov.jpg
Andesite Mount Žarnov (Vtáčnik), Slovakia
Andesite pillar in Slovakia Andesite pillar.jpg
Andesite pillar in Slovakia

Generation of melts in island arcs

Though andesite is common in other tectonic settings, it is particularly characteristic of convergent plate margins. Even before the Plate Tectonics Revolution, geologists had defined an andesite line in the western Pacific that separated basalt of the central Pacific from andesite further west. This coincides with the subduction zones at the western boundary of the Pacific Plate. Magmatism in island arc regions comes from the interplay of the subducting plate and the mantle wedge , the wedge-shaped region between the subducting and overriding plates. [16] The presence of convergent margins dominated by andesite is so characteristic of the Earth's unique plate tectonics that the Earth has been described as an "andesite planet". [17]

During subduction, the subducted oceanic crust is subjected to increasing pressure and temperature, leading to metamorphism. Hydrous minerals such as amphibole, zeolites, or chlorite (which are present in the oceanic lithosphere) dehydrate as they change to more stable, anhydrous forms, releasing water and soluble elements into the overlying wedge of mantle. Fluxing water into the wedge lowers the solidus of the mantle material and causes partial melting. [18] Due to the lower density of the partially molten material, it rises through the wedge until it reaches the lower boundary of the overriding plate. Melts generated in the mantle wedge are of basaltic composition, but they have a distinctive enrichment of soluble elements (e.g. potassium (K), barium (Ba), and lead (Pb)) which are contributed from sediment that lies at the top of the subducting plate. Although there is evidence to suggest that the subducting oceanic crust may also melt during this process, the relative contribution of the three components (crust, sediment, and wedge) to the generated basalts is still a matter of debate. [19]

Basalt thus formed can contribute to the formation of andesite through fractional crystallization, partial melting of crust, or magma mixing, all of which are discussed next.


Intermediate volcanic rocks are created via several processes:

  1. Fractional crystallization of a mafic parent magma.
  2. Partial melting of crustal material.
  3. Magma mixing between felsic rhyolitic and mafic basaltic magmas in a magma reservoir
  4. Partial melting of metasomatized mantle

Fractional crystallization

To achieve andesitic composition via fractional crystallization, a basaltic magma must crystallize specific minerals that are then removed from the melt. This removal can take place in a variety of ways, but most commonly this occurs by crystal settling. The first minerals to crystallize and be removed from a basaltic parent are olivines and amphiboles. [20] These mafic minerals settle out of the magma, forming mafic cumulates. [21] There is geophysical evidence from several arcs that large layers of mafic cumulates lie at the base of the crust. [22] [23] Once these mafic minerals have been removed, the melt no longer has a basaltic composition. The silica content of the residual melt is enriched relative to the starting composition. The iron and magnesium contents are depleted. As this process continues, the melt becomes more and more evolved eventually becoming andesitic. Without continued addition of mafic material, however, the melt will eventually reach a rhyolitic composition. This produces the characteristic basalt-andesite-rhyolite association of island arcs, with andesite the most distinctive rock type. [20]

Partial melting of the crust

Partially molten basalt in the mantle wedge moves upwards until it reaches the base of the overriding crust. Once there, the basaltic melt can either underplate the crust, creating a layer of molten material at its base, or it can move into the overriding plate in the form of dykes. If it underplates the crust, the basalt can (in theory) cause partial melting of the lower crust due to the transfer of heat and volatiles. Models of heat transfer, however, show that arc basalts emplaced at temperatures 1100–1240 °C cannot provide enough heat to melt lower crustal amphibolite. [24] Basalt can, however, melt pelitic upper crustal material. [25]

Magma mixing

In continental arcs, such as the Andes, magma often pools in the shallow crust creating magma chambers. Magmas in these reservoirs become evolved in composition (dacitic to rhyolitic) through both the process of fractional crystallization and partial melting of the surrounding country rock. [26] Over time as crystallization continues and the system loses heat, these reservoirs cool. In order to remain active, magma chambers must have continued recharge of hot basaltic melt into the system. When this basaltic material mixes with the evolved rhyolitic magma, the composition is returned to andesite, its intermediate phase. [27] Evidence of magma mixing is provided by the presence of phenocrysts in some andesites that are not in chemical equilibrium with the melt in which they are found. [14]

Partial melting of metasomatized mantle

High-magnesium andesites ( boninites ) in island arcs may be primitive andesites, generated from metasomatized mantle. [28] [29] Experimental evidence shows that depleted mantle rock exposed to alkali fluids such as might be given off by a subducting slab generates magma resembling high-magnesium andesites. [30] [31] [32]

Extraterrestrial samples

In 2009, researchers revealed that andesite was found in two meteorites (numbered GRA 06128 and GRA 06129) that were discovered in the Graves Nunataks icefield during the US Antarctic Search for Meteorites 2006/2007 field season. This possibly points to a new mechanism to generate andesite crust. [33]

Along with basalts, andesites are a component of the Martian crust. [34] The presence of distinctive steep-sided domes on Venus suggests that andesite may have been erupted from large magma chambers where crystal settling could take place. [35]

See also

Related Research Articles

Magma Hot semifluid material found beneath the surface of Earth

Magma is the molten or semi-molten natural material from which all igneous rocks are formed. Magma is found beneath the surface of the Earth, and evidence of magmatism has also been discovered on other terrestrial planets and some natural satellites. Besides molten rock, magma may also contain suspended crystals and gas bubbles.

Basalt Magnesium- and iron-rich extrusive igneous rock

Basalt is an aphanitic (fine-grained) extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of low-viscosity lava rich in magnesium and iron exposed at or very near the surface of a rocky planet or moon. More than 90% of all volcanic rock on Earth is basalt. Rapid-cooling, fine-grained basalt is chemically equivalent to slow-cooling, coarse-grained gabbro. The eruption of basalt lava is observed by geologists at about 20 volcanoes per year. Basalt is also an important rock type on other planetary bodies in the Solar System. For example, the bulk of the plains of Venus, which cover ~80% of the surface, are basaltic; the lunar maria are plains of flood-basaltic lava flows; and basalt is a common rock on the surface of Mars.

Convergent boundary Region of active deformation between colliding tectonic plates

A convergent boundary is an area on Earth where two or more lithospheric plates collide. One plate eventually slides beneath the other, a process known as subduction. The subduction zone can be defined by a plane where many earthquakes occur, called the Wadati–Benioff zone. These collisions happen on scales of millions to tens of millions of years and can lead to volcanism, earthquakes, orogenesis, destruction of lithosphere, and deformation. Convergent boundaries occur between oceanic-oceanic lithosphere, oceanic-continental lithosphere, and continental-continental lithosphere. The geologic features related to convergent boundaries vary depending on crust types.

Dacite Volcanic rock intermediate in composition between andesite and rhyolite

Dacite is a volcanic rock formed by rapid solidification of lava that is high in silica and low in alkali metal oxides. It has a fine-grained (aphanitic) to porphyritic texture and is intermediate in composition between andesite and rhyolite. It is composed predominantly of plagioclase feldspar and quartz.

Extrusive rock Mode of igneous volcanic rock formation

Extrusive rock refers to the mode of igneous volcanic rock formation in which hot magma from inside the Earth flows out (extrudes) onto the surface as lava or explodes violently into the atmosphere to fall back as pyroclastics or tuff. In contrast, intrusive rock refers to rocks formed by magma which cools below the surface.

Island arc Arc-shaped archipelago formed by intense seismic activity of long chains of active volcanoes

Island arcs are long chains of active volcanoes with intense seismic activity found along convergent tectonic plate boundaries. Most island arcs originate on oceanic crust and have resulted from the descent of the lithosphere into the mantle along the subduction zone. They are the principal way by which continental growth is achieved.

Peridotite Coarse-grained ultramafic igneous rock type

Peridotite ( PERR-ih-doh-tyte, pə-RID-ə-) is a dense, coarse-grained igneous rock consisting mostly of the silicate minerals olivine and pyroxene. Peridotite is ultramafic, as the rock contains less than 45% silica. It is high in magnesium (Mg2+), reflecting the high proportions of magnesium-rich olivine, with appreciable iron. Peridotite is derived from Earth's mantle, either as solid blocks and fragments, or as crystals accumulated from magmas that formed in the mantle. The compositions of peridotites from these layered igneous complexes vary widely, reflecting the relative proportions of pyroxenes, chromite, plagioclase, and amphibole.

Rock cycle Transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous

The rock cycle is a basic concept in geology that describes transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. Each rock type is altered when it is forced out of its equilibrium conditions. For example, an igneous rock such as basalt may break down and dissolve when exposed to the atmosphere, or melt as it is subducted under a continent. Due to the driving forces of the rock cycle, plate tectonics and the water cycle, rocks do not remain in equilibrium and change as they encounter new environments. The rock cycle explains how the three rock types are related to each other, and how processes change from one type to another over time. This cyclical aspect makes rock change a geologic cycle and, on planets containing life, a biogeochemical cycle.

In geology, igneous differentiation, or magmatic differentiation, is an umbrella term for the various processes by which magmas undergo bulk chemical change during the partial melting process, cooling, emplacement, or eruption. The sequence of magmas produced by igneous differentiation is known as a magma series.

Boninite is a mafic extrusive rock high in both magnesium and silica, thought to be usually formed in fore-arc environments, typically during the early stages of subduction. The rock is named for its occurrence in the Izu-Bonin arc south of Japan. It is characterized by extreme depletion in incompatible trace elements that are not fluid mobile but variable enrichment in the fluid mobile elements. They are found almost exclusively in the fore-arc of primitive island arcs and in ophiolite complexes thought to represent former fore-arc settings or at least formed above a subduction zone.

The calc-alkaline magma series is one of two main subdivisions of the subalkaline magma series, the other subalkaline magma series being the tholeiitic series. A magma series is a series of compositions that describes the evolution of a mafic magma, which is high in magnesium and iron and produces basalt or gabbro, as it fractionally crystallizes to become a felsic magma, which is low in magnesium and iron and produces rhyolite or granite. Calc-alkaline rocks are rich in alkaline earths and alkali metals and make up a major part of the crust of the continents.


Sanukitoids are a variety of high-Mg granitoid found in convergent margin settings. The term "sanukitoid" was originally used to define a variety of Archean plutonic rock, but now also includes younger rocks with similar geochemical characteristics. They are called "sanukitoid" because of their similarity in bulk chemical composition to high-magnesium andesite from the Setouchi Peninsula of Japan, known as "sanukites" or "setouchites". Sanukite rocks are an andesite characterized by orthopyroxene as the mafic mineral, andesine as the plagioclase, and a glassy groundmass. Rocks formed by processes similar to those of sanukite may have compositions outside the sanukitoid field.

Adakite Volcanic rock type

Adakites are volcanic rocks of intermediate to felsic composition that have geochemical characteristics of magma originally thought to have formed by partial melting of altered basalt that is subducted below volcanic arcs. Most magmas derived in subduction zones come from the mantle above the subducting plate when hydrous fluids are released from minerals that break down in the metamorphosed basalt, rise into the mantle, and initiate partial melting. However, Defant and Drummond recognized that when young oceanic crust is subducted, adakites are typically produced in the arc. They postulated that when young oceanic crust is subducted it is "warmer" than crust that is typically subducted. The warmer crust enables melting of the metamorphosed subducted basalt rather than the mantle above. Experimental work by several researchers has verified the geochemical characteristics of "slab melts" and the contention that melts can form from young and therefore warmer crust in subduction zones.

Igneous rock Rock formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava

Igneous rock, or magmatic rock, is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava.

Basaltic andesite Volcanic rock that is intermediate in composition between basalt and andesite

Basaltic andesite is a volcanic rock that is intermediate in composition between basalt and andesite. It is composed predominantly of augite and plagioclase. Basaltic andesite can be found in volcanoes around the world, including in Central America and the Andes of South America.

Lau Basin

The Lau Basin is a back-arc basin at the Australian-Pacific plate boundary. It is formed by the Pacific plate subducting under the Australian plate. The Tonga-Kermadec Ridge, a frontal arc, and the Lau-Colville Ridge, a remnant arc, sit to the eastern and western sides of the basin, respectively.

In igneous petrology and volcanology, flux melting occurs when water and other volatile components are introduced to hot solid rock, depressing the solidus. In engineering and metallurgy, flux is a substance, such as salt, that produces a low melting point (liquidus) mixture with a metal oxide. In the same way, the addition of water and other volatile compounds to rocks composed of silicate minerals lowers the melting temperature (solidus) of those rocks.

Subduction zone metamorphism Changes of rock due to pressure and heat near a subduction zone

A subduction zone is a region of the earth's crust where one tectonic plate moves under another tectonic plate; oceanic crust gets recycled back into the mantle and continental crust gets created by the formation of arc magmas. Arc magmas account for more than 20% of terrestrially produced magmas and are produced by the dehydration of minerals within the subducting slab as it descends into the mantle and are accreted onto the base of the overriding continental plate. Subduction zones host a unique variety of rock types created by the high-pressure, low-temperature conditions a subducting slab encounters during its descent. The metamorphic conditions the slab passes through in this process creates and destroys water bearing (hydrous) mineral phases, releasing water into the mantle. This water lowers the melting point of mantle rock, initiating melting. Understanding the timing and conditions in which these dehydration reactions occur, is key to interpreting mantle melting, volcanic arc magmatism, and the formation of continental crust.

A continental arc is a type of volcanic arc occurring as an "arc-shape" topographic high region along a continental margin. The continental arc is formed at an active continental margin where two tectonic plates meet, and where one plate has continental crust and the other oceanic crust along the line of plate convergence, and a subduction zone develops. The magmatism and petrogenesis of continental crust are complicated: in essence, continental arcs reflect a mixture of oceanic crust materials, mantle wedge and continental crust materials.

Tonalite–trondhjemite–granodiorite Intrusive rocks with typical granitic composition

Tonalite–trondhjemite–granodiorite (TTG) rocks are intrusive rocks with typical granitic composition but containing only a small portion of potassium feldspar. Tonalite, trondhjemite, and granodiorite often occur together in geological records, indicating similar petrogenetic processes. Post Archean TTG rocks are present in arc-related batholiths, as well as in ophiolites, while Archean TTG rocks are major components of Archean cratons.


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