Lava dome

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Rhyolitic lava dome of Chaiten Volcano during its 2008-2010 eruption Volcan Chaiten-Sam Beebe-Ecotrust.jpg
Rhyolitic lava dome of Chaitén Volcano during its 2008–2010 eruption
One of the Inyo Craters, an example of a rhyolite dome Mono Crater closeup-1000px.jpeg
One of the Inyo Craters, an example of a rhyolite dome
Nea Kameni seen from Thera, Santorini Nea Kameni.jpg
Nea Kameni seen from Thera, Santorini

In volcanology, a lava dome is a circular mound-shaped protrusion resulting from the slow extrusion of viscous lava from a volcano. Dome-building eruptions are common, particularly in convergent plate boundary settings. [1] Around 6% of eruptions on Earth are lava dome forming. [1] The geochemistry of lava domes can vary from basalt (e.g. Semeru, 1946) to rhyolite (e.g. Chaiten, 2010) although the majority are of intermediate composition (such as Santiaguito, dacite-andesite, present day) [2] The characteristic dome shape is attributed to high viscosity that prevents the lava from flowing very far. This high viscosity can be obtained in two ways: by high levels of silica in the magma, or by degassing of fluid magma. Since viscous basaltic and andesitic domes weather fast and easily break apart by further input of fluid lava, most of the preserved domes have high silica content and consist of rhyolite or dacite.


Existence of lava domes has been suggested for some domed structures on the Moon, Venus, and Mars, [1] e.g. the Martian surface in the western part of Arcadia Planitia and within Terra Sirenum. [3] [4]

Dome dynamics

Lava domes in the crater of Mount St. Helens MSH06 aerial crater from north high angle 09-12-06.jpg
Lava domes in the crater of Mount St. Helens

Lava domes evolve unpredictably, due to non-linear dynamics caused by crystallization and outgassing of the highly viscous lava in the dome's conduit. [5] Domes undergo various processes such as growth, collapse, solidification and erosion. [6]

Lava domes grow by endogenic dome growth or exogenic dome growth. The former implies the enlargement of a lava dome due to the influx of magma into the dome interior, and the latter refers to discrete lobes of lava emplaced upon the surface of the dome. [2] It is the high viscosity of the lava that prevents it from flowing far from the vent from which it extrudes, creating a dome-like shape of sticky lava that then cools slowly in-situ. [7] Spines and lava flows are common extrusive products of lava domes. [1] Domes may reach heights of several hundred meters, and can grow slowly and steadily for months (e.g. Unzen volcano), years (e.g. Soufrière Hills volcano), or even centuries (e.g. Mount Merapi volcano). The sides of these structures are composed of unstable rock debris. Due to the intermittent buildup of gas pressure, erupting domes can often experience episodes of explosive eruption over time. [8] If part of a lava dome collapses and exposes pressurized magma, pyroclastic flows can be produced. [9] Other hazards associated with lava domes are the destruction of property from lava flows, forest fires, and lahars triggered from re-mobilization of loose ash and debris. Lava domes are one of the principal structural features of many stratovolcanoes worldwide. Lava domes are prone to unusually dangerous explosions since they can contain rhyolitic silica-rich lava.

Characteristics of lava dome eruptions include shallow, long-period and hybrid seismicity, which is attributed to excess fluid pressures in the contributing vent chamber. Other characteristics of lava domes include their hemispherical dome shape, cycles of dome growth over long periods, and sudden onsets of violent explosive activity. [10] The average rate of dome growth may be used as a rough indicator of magma supply, but it shows no systematic relationship to the timing or characteristics of lava dome explosions. [11]

Gravitational collapse of a lava dome can produce a block and ash flow. [12]


The bulging cryptodome of Mt. St. Helens on April 27, 1980 MSH80 bulge on north side 04-27-80.jpg
The bulging cryptodome of Mt. St. Helens on April 27, 1980

A cryptodome (from the Greek κρυπτός, kryptos, "hidden, secret") is a dome-shaped structure created by accumulation of viscous magma at a shallow depth. [13] One example of a cryptodome was in the May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, where the explosive eruption began after a landslide caused the side of the volcano to fall, leading to explosive decompression of the subterranean cryptodome. [14]

Lava spine/Lava spire

Soufriere Hills lava spine before the 1997 eruption Soufriere Hills Lava Dome Spire1.jpg
Soufrière Hills lava spine before the 1997 eruption

A lava spine or lava spire is a growth that can form on the top of a lava dome. A lava spine can increase the instability of the underlying lava dome. A recent example of a lava spine is the spine formed in 1997 at the Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat.

Lava coulées

Chao dacite coulee flow-domes (left center), northern Chile, viewed from Landsat 8 Chao dacite domes.jpg
Chao dacite coulée flow-domes (left center), northern Chile, viewed from Landsat 8

Coulées (or coulees) are lava domes that have experienced some flow away from their original position, thus resembling both lava domes and lava flows. [2]

The world's largest known dacite flow is the Chao dacite dome complex, a huge coulée flow-dome between two volcanoes in northern Chile. This flow is over 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) long, has obvious flow features like pressure ridges, and a flow front 400 metres (1,300 ft) tall (the dark scalloped line at lower left). [15] There is another prominent coulée flow on the flank of Llullaillaco volcano, in Argentina, [16] and other examples in the Andes.

Examples of lava domes

Lava domes
Name of lava domeCountryVolcanic areaCompositionLast eruption
or growth episode
Chaitén lava dome Chile Southern Volcanic Zone Rhyolite 2009
Ciomadul lava domes Romania Carpathians Dacite Pleistocene
Cordón Caulle lava domesChileSouthern Volcanic Zone Rhyodacite to Rhyolite Holocene
Galeras lava dome Colombia Northern Volcanic Zone Unknown2010
Katla lava dome Iceland Iceland hotspot Rhyolite1999 onwards [17] [ better source needed ]
Lassen Peak United States Cascade Volcanic Arc Dacite1917
Black Butte (Siskiyou County, California) United States Cascade Volcanic Arc Dacite9500 BP [18]
Bridge River Vent lava domeCanadaCascade Volcanic ArcDaciteca. 300 BC
La Soufrière lava dome Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc 2021 [19]
Mount Merapi lava dome Indonesia Sunda Arc Unknown2010
Nea Kameni Greece South Aegean Volcanic Arc Dacite1950
Novarupta lava domeUnited States Aleutian Arc Rhyolite1912
Nevados de Chillán lava domesChileSouthern Volcanic ZoneDacite1986
Puy de Dôme France Chaîne des Puys Trachyte ca. 5760 BC
Santa María lava dome Guatemala Central America Volcanic Arc Dacite2009
Sollipulli lava domeChileSouthern Volcanic Zone Andesite to Dacite1240 ± 50 years
Soufrière Hills lava dome Montserrat Lesser Antilles Andesite2009
Mount St. Helens lava domesUnited StatesCascade Volcanic ArcDacite2008
Torfajökull lava domeIceland Iceland hotspot Rhyolite1477
Tata Sabaya lava domes Bolivia Andes Unknown~ Holocene
Tate-iwaJapan Japan Arc Dacite Miocene [20]
Valles lava domes United States Jemez Mountains Rhyolite50,000-60,000 BP
Wizard Island lava domeUnited StatesCascade Volcanic ArcRhyodacite [21] 2850 BC

Related Research Articles

Volcano Rupture in the crust of a planet that allows lava, ash, and gases to escape from below the surface

A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.

Stratovolcano Type of conical volcano composed of layers of lava and tephra

A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava and tephra. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile with a summit crater and periodic intervals of explosive eruptions and effusive eruptions, although some have collapsed summit craters called calderas. The lava flowing from stratovolcanoes typically cools and hardens before spreading far, due to high viscosity. The magma forming this lava is often felsic, having high-to-intermediate levels of silica, with lesser amounts of less-viscous mafic magma. Extensive felsic lava flows are uncommon, but have travelled as far as 15 km (9.3 mi).

Geology of the Lassen volcanic area Geology of a U.S. national park in California

The Lassen volcanic area presents a geological record of sedimentation and volcanic activity in and around Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California, U.S. The park is located in the southernmost part of the Cascade Mountain Range in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Pacific Oceanic tectonic plates have plunged below the North American Plate in this part of North America for hundreds of millions of years. Heat and molten rock from these subducting plates has fed scores of volcanoes in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia over at least the past 30 million years, including these in the Lassen volcanic areas.

Santa María (volcano) Active volcano in Quetzaltenango Department, Guatemala

Santa María Volcano is a large active volcano in the western highlands of Guatemala, in the Quetzaltenango Department near the city of Quetzaltenango.

Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat in the Caribbean

The Soufrière Hills are an active, complex stratovolcano with many lava domes forming its summit on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. After a long period of dormancy, the Soufrière Hills volcano became active in 1995 and has continued to erupt ever since. Its eruptions have rendered more than half of Montserrat uninhabitable, destroying the capital city, Plymouth, and causing widespread evacuations: about two-thirds of the population have left the island. Chances Peak in the Soufrière Hills was the highest summit on Montserrat until the mid-1990s, but it has since been eclipsed by various rising and falling volcanic domes during the recent volcanic activity.

La Garita Caldera Large supervolcanic caldera in the state of Colorado, U.S.

La Garita Caldera is a large supervolcanic caldera in the San Juan volcanic field in the San Juan Mountains near the town of Creede in southwestern Colorado, United States. It is west of La Garita, Colorado. The eruption that created the La Garita Caldera is among the largest known volcanic eruptions in Earth's history, as well as being one of the most powerful known supervolcanic events.

Effusive eruption Type of volcanic eruption in which lava steadily flows

An effusive eruption is a type of volcanic eruption in which lava steadily flows out of a volcano onto the ground.

Volcanic gas Gases given off by active volcanoes

Volcanic gases are gases given off by active volcanoes. These include gases trapped in cavities (vesicles) in volcanic rocks, dissolved or dissociated gases in magma and lava, or gases emanating from lava, from volcanic craters or vents. Volcanic gases can also be emitted through groundwater heated by volcanic action.

Lascar (volcano) A stratovolcano within the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes

Lascar is a stratovolcano in Chile within the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes, a volcanic arc that spans Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. It is the most active volcano in the region, with records of eruptions going back to 1848. It is composed of two separate cones with several summit craters. The westernmost crater of the eastern cone is presently active. Volcanic activity is characterized by constant release of volcanic gas and occasional vulcanian eruptions.

Types of volcanic eruptions

Several types of volcanic eruptions—during which lava, tephra, and assorted gases are expelled from a volcanic vent or fissure—have been distinguished by volcanologists. These are often named after famous volcanoes where that type of behavior has been observed. Some volcanoes may exhibit only one characteristic type of eruption during a period of activity, while others may display an entire sequence of types all in one eruptive series.

Ollagüe Stratovolcano in Bolivia and Chile

Ollagüe or Ullawi is a massive andesite stratovolcano in the Andes on the border between Bolivia and Chile, within the Antofagasta Region of Chile and the Potosi Department of Bolivia. Part of the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes, its highest summit is 5,868 metres (19,252 ft) above sea level and features a summit crater that opens to the south. The western rim of the summit crater is formed by a compound of lava domes, the youngest of which features a vigorous fumarole that is visible from afar.

Phreatomagmatic eruption Volcanic eruption involving both steam and magma

Phreatomagmatic eruptions are volcanic eruptions resulting from interaction between magma and water. They differ from exclusively magmatic eruptions and phreatic eruptions. Unlike phreatic eruptions, the products of phreatomagmatic eruptions contain juvenile (magmatic) clasts. It is common for a large explosive eruption to have magmatic and phreatomagmatic components.

Taapaca Volcano in Chile

Taapaca is a Holocene volcanic complex in northern Chile's Arica y Parinacota Region. Located in the Chilean Andes, it is part of the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andean Volcanic Belt, one of four distinct volcanic chains in South America. The town of Putre lies at the southwestern foot of the volcano.

Silverthrone Caldera Caldera in British Columbia, Canada

The Silverthrone Caldera is a potentially active caldera complex in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, located over 350 kilometres (220 mi) northwest of the city of Vancouver and about 50 kilometres (31 mi) west of Mount Waddington in the Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains. The caldera is one of the largest of the few calderas in western Canada, measuring about 30 kilometres (19 mi) long (north-south) and 20 kilometres (12 mi) wide (east-west). Mount Silverthrone, an eroded lava dome on the caldera's northern flank that is 2,864 metres (9,396 ft) high, may be the highest volcano in Canada.

Mount Edziza volcanic complex Mountain in British Columbia, Canada

The Mount Edziza volcanic complex is a large and potentially active north-south trending complex volcano in Stikine Country, northwestern British Columbia, Canada, located 38 kilometres (24 mi) southeast of the small community of Telegraph Creek. It occupies the southeastern portion of the Tahltan Highland, an upland area of plateau and lower mountain ranges, lying east of the Boundary Ranges and south of the Inklin River, which is the east fork of the Taku River. As a volcanic complex, it consists of many types of volcanoes, including shield volcanoes, calderas, lava domes, stratovolcanoes, and cinder cones.

Lava Molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption

Lava is molten or partially molten rock (magma) that has been expelled from the interior of a terrestrial planet or a moon onto its surface. Lava may be erupted at a volcano or through a fracture in the crust, on land or underwater, usually at temperatures from 800 to 1,200 °C. The volcanic rock resulting from subsequent cooling is also often called lava.


Ceboruco is a dacitic stratovolcano located in Nayarit, Mexico, northwest of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. The largest eruption, the Jala Plinian eruption, was around 930 AD ±200, VEI 6, releasing 11 cubic kilometres (2.6 cu mi) of tephra. The most recent and best documented eruption from Ceboruco lasted from 1870–1875, with fumarole activity lasting well into the 20th century. The mountain features one large caldera, created during the Jala eruption, with a smaller crater nested inside that formed when the Dos Equis lava dome collapsed during the Coapales eruption around 1100 AD. Within both of these craters, are several explosive volcanic features, including scoria deposits, lava domes, and pyroclastic domes, or cinder cone volcanoes.

Ciomadul Volcano in Romania

Ciomadul is a volcano in Romania, and is known as Csomád in Hungarian. It is in the Carpathians, close to the towns of Băile Tușnad and Bixad. It is part of a volcanic chain known as the Călimani (Kelemen) – Gurghiu (Görgényi) – Harghita (Hargita) chain and lies at its southeastern end. Ciomadul consists of several lava domes with two embedded explosion craters known as Mohos and St. Ana, the latter of which contains a crater lake, Lake Sfânta Ana. The dominant volcanic rock at Ciomadul is potassium-rich dacite.

Sabancaya Active stratovolcano in Southern Peru

Sabancaya is an active 5,976-metre-high (19,606 ft) stratovolcano in the Andes of southern Peru, about 70 kilometres (43 mi) northwest of Arequipa. It is considered part of the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes, one of the three distinct volcanic belts of the Andes. The Central Volcanic Zone includes a number of volcanoes, some of which like Huaynaputina have had large eruptions and others such as Sabancaya and Ubinas have been active in historical time. Sabancaya forms a volcanic complex together with Hualca Hualca to the north and Ampato to the south and has erupted andesite and dacite. It is covered by a small ice cap which leads to a risk of lahars during eruptions.

Ticsani Volcano in Peru

Ticsani is a volcano in Peru northwest of Moquegua and consists of two volcanoes that form a complex. "Old Ticsani" is a compound volcano that underwent a large collapse in the past and shed 15–30 cubic kilometres (3.6–7.2 cu mi) of mass down the Rio Tambo valley. Today an arcuate ridge remains of this edifice. "Modern Ticsani" is a complex of three lava domes which were emplaced during the Holocene. Two large eruptions took place during the Holocene, producing the so-called "Grey Ticsani" and "Brown Ticsani" deposits; the last eruption occurred after the 1600 eruption of neighbouring Huaynaputina. The volcano is seismically active and features active hot springs and fumaroles; since 2015 the volcano is monitored by the Peruvian government.


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