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. 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. [7] If part of a lava dome collapses and exposes pressurized magma, pyroclastic flows can be produced. [8] 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. [9] 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. [10]

Gravitational collapse of a lava dome can produce a block and ash flow. [11]


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 Greek κρυπτός, kryptos, "hidden, secret") is a dome-shaped structure created by accumulation of viscous magma at a shallow depth. [12] 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. [13]

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). [14] There is another prominent coulée flow on the flank of Llullaillaco volcano, in Argentina, [15] 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 [16] [ better source needed ]
Lassen Peak United States Cascade Volcanic Arc Dacite1917
Black Butte (Siskiyou County, California) United States Cascade Volcanic Arc Dacite9500 BP [17]
Bridge River Vent lava domeCanadaCascade Volcanic ArcDaciteca. 300 BC
La Soufrière lava dome Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc 2021 [18]
Mount Merapi lava dome Indonesia Sunda Arc Unknown2010
Nea Kameni Greece South Aegean Volcanic Arc Dacite1950
Novarupta lava dome Alaska (United 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 [19]
Valles lava domes United States Jemez Mountains Rhyolite50,000-60,000 BP
Wizard Island lava domeUnited StatesCascade Volcanic ArcRhyodacite [20] 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.

Magma Natural 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.

Rhyolite An igneous, volcanic rock, of felsic (silica-rich) composition

Rhyolite is the most silica-rich of volcanic rocks. It is generally glassy or fine-grained (aphanitic) in texture, but may be porphyritic, containing larger mineral crystals (phenocrysts) in an otherwise fine-grained rock. The mineral assemblage is predominantly quartz, sanidine and plagioclase. It is the extrusive equivalent to granite.

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 national park in California

The geology of the Lassen volcanic area presents a record of sedimentation and volcanic activity in the area 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 from these subducting plates has fed scores of volcanoes in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia over at least the past 30 million years and is also responsible for activities in the Lassen volcanic area.

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.

Vulcanian eruption

A Vulcanian eruption is a type of volcanic eruption characterized by a dense cloud of ash-laden gas exploding from the crater and rising high above the peak. They usually commence with phreatomagmatic eruptions which can be extremely noisy due to the rising magma heating water in the ground. This is usually followed by the explosive clearing of the vent and the eruption column is dirty grey to black as old weathered rocks are blasted out of the vent. As the vent clears, further ash clouds become grey-white and creamy in colour, with convolutions of the ash similar to those of Plinian eruptions.

La Garita Caldera

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.

Explosive eruption Type of volcanic eruption in which lava is violently expelled

In volcanology, an explosive eruption is a volcanic eruption of the most violent type. A notable example is the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Such eruptions result when sufficient gas has dissolved under pressure within a viscous magma such that expelled lava violently froths into volcanic ash when pressure is suddenly lowered at the vent. Sometimes a lava plug will block the conduit to the summit, and when this occurs, eruptions are more violent. Explosive eruptions can send rocks, dust, gas and pyroclastic material up to 20 km (12 mi) into the atmosphere at a rate of up to 100,000 tonnes per second, traveling at several hundred meters per second. This cloud may then collapse, creating a fast-moving pyroclastic flow of hot volcanic matter.

Peléan eruption

Peléan eruptions are a type of volcanic eruption. They can occur when viscous magma, typically of rhyolitic or andesitic type, is involved, and share some similarities with Vulcanian eruptions. The most important characteristic of a Peléan eruption is the presence of a glowing avalanche of hot volcanic ash, called a pyroclastic flow. Formation of lava domes is another characteristic. Short flows of ash or creation of pumice cones may be observed as well.

Types of volcanic eruptions mechanisms of eruption

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 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.

Silverthrone Caldera

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

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 rock (magma) that has been expelled from the interior of a terrestrial planet or a moon. Magma is generated by the internal heat of the planet or moon and it is erupted as lava at volcanoes or through fractures in the crust, usually at temperatures from 800 to 1,200 °C. The volcanic rock resulting from subsequent cooling is also often described as 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.


Ticsani is a volcano in Peru northwest of Moquegua. It consists of two volcanoes that form a complex: "old Ticsani", which 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; the other is a complex of three lava domes which were emplaced during the Holocene. Two sub-Plinian 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.

Archean felsic volcanic rocks Felsic volcanic rocks formed in the Archean Eon

Archean felsic volcanic rocks are felsic volcanic rocks that were formed in the Archean Eon. The term "felsic" means that the rocks have silica content of 62–78%. Given that the Earth formed at ~4.5 billion year ago, Archean felsic volcanic rocks provide clues on the Earth's first volcanic activities on the Earth's surface started 500 million years after the Earth's formation.


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