Magma

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Lava flow on Hawaii. Lava is the extrusive equivalent of magma. Pahoehoe toe.jpg
Lava flow on Hawaii. Lava is the extrusive equivalent of magma.

Magma (from Ancient Greek μάγμα (mágma) meaning "thick unguent" [1] ) is the molten or semi-molten natural material from which all igneous rocks are formed. [2] 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. [3] Besides molten rock, magma may also contain suspended crystals and gas bubbles. [4]

Contents

Magma is produced by melting of the mantle or the crust at various tectonic settings, including subduction zones, continental rift zones, [5] mid-ocean ridges and hotspots. Mantle and crustal melts migrate upwards through the crust where they are thought to be stored in magma chambers [6] or trans-crustal crystal-rich mush zones. [7] During their storage in the crust, magma compositions may be modified by fractional crystallization, contamination with crustal melts, magma mixing, and degassing. Following their ascent through the crust, magmas may feed a volcano or solidify underground to form an intrusion [8] (e.g., an igneous dike or a sill).

While the study of magma has historically relied on observing magma in the form of lava flows, magma has been encountered in situ three times during geothermal drilling projects twice in Iceland (see Magma usage for energy production), and once in Hawaii. [9] [10] [11]

Physical and chemical properties of magma

Most magmatic liquids are rich in silica. [8] Silicate melts are composed mainly of silicon, oxygen, aluminium, iron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium. The physical behaviours of melts depend upon their atomic structures as well as upon temperature and pressure and composition. [12]

Viscosity is a key melt property in understanding the behaviour of magmas. More silica-rich melts are typically more polymerized, with more linkage of silica tetrahedra, and so are more viscous. Dissolution of water drastically reduces melt viscosity. Higher-temperature melts are less viscous. Furthermore, silicate melt (the liquid phase of magma) is viscoelastic, meaning it flows like a liquid under low stresses, but once the applied stress exceeds a critical value the melt can not dissipate the stress fast enough through relaxation alone, resulting in transient fracture propagation. Once stresses are reduced below the critical threshold, the melt viscously relaxes once more and heals the fracture. [13]

Generally speaking, more mafic magmas, such as those that form basalt, are hotter and less viscous than more silica-rich magmas, such as those that form rhyolite. Low viscosity leads to gentler, less explosive eruptions.

Characteristics of several different magma types are as follows:

Ultramafic (picritic)
SiO2 < 45%
Fe–Mg > 8% up to 32%MgO
Temperature: up to 1500°C
Viscosity: Very Low
Eruptive behavior: gentle or very explosive (kimberilites)
Distribution: divergent plate boundaries, hot spots, convergent plate boundaries; komatiite and other ultramafic lavas are mostly Archean and were formed from a higher geothermal gradient and are unknown in the present
Mafic (basaltic)
SiO2 < 50%
FeO and MgO typically < 10 wt%
Temperature: up to ~1300°C
Viscosity: Low
Eruptive behavior: gentle
Distribution: divergent plate boundaries, hot spots, convergent plate boundaries
Intermediate (andesitic)
SiO2 ~ 60%
Fe–Mg: ~ 3%th
Temperature: ~1000°C
Viscosity: Intermediate
Eruptive behavior: explosive or effusive
Distribution: convergent plate boundaries, island arcs
Felsic (rhyolitic)
SiO2 > 70%
Fe–Mg: ~ 2%
Temperature: < 900°C
Viscosity: High
Eruptive behavior: explosive or effusive
Distribution: common in hot spots in continental crust (Yellowstone National Park) and in continental rifts

Temperature

Temperatures of most magmas are in the range 700 °C to 1300 °C (or 1300 °F to 2400 °F), but very rare carbonatite magmas may be as cool as 490 °C, [14] and komatiite magmas may have been as hot as 1600 °C. [15] At any given pressure and for any given composition of rock, a rise in temperature past the solidus will cause melting. Within the solid earth, the temperature of a rock is controlled by the geothermal gradient and the radioactive decay within the rock. The geothermal gradient averages about 25 °C/km with a wide range from a low of 5–10 °C/km within oceanic trenches and subduction zones to 30–80 °C/km under mid-ocean ridges and volcanic arc environments.

Density

TypeDensity (kg/m3)
Basalt magma2650–2800 [16]
Andesite magma2450–2500 [16]
Rhyolite magma2180–2250 [16]

Composition

It is usually very difficult to change the bulk composition of a large mass of rock, so composition is the basic control on whether a rock will melt at any given temperature and pressure. The composition of a rock may also be considered to include volatile phases such as water and carbon dioxide.

The presence of volatile phases in a rock under pressure can stabilize a melt fraction. The presence of even 0.8% water may reduce the temperature of melting by as much as 100 °C. Conversely, the loss of water and volatiles from a magma may cause it to essentially freeze or solidify.

Also a major portion of almost all magma is silica, which is a compound of silicon and oxygen. Magma also contains gases, which expand as the magma rises. Magma that is high in silica resists flowing, so expanding gases are trapped in it. Pressure builds up until the gases blast out in a violent, dangerous explosion. Magma that is relatively poor in silica flows easily, so gas bubbles move up through it and escape fairly gently.

Origins of magma by partial melting

Partial melting

Melting of solid rocks to form magma is controlled by three physical parameters: temperature, pressure, and composition. The most common mechanisms of magma generation in the mantle are decompression melting, [17] heating (e.g., by interaction with a hot mantle plume [18] ), and lowering of the solidus (e.g., by compositional changes such as the addition of water [19] ). Mechanisms are discussed further in the entry for igneous rock.

When rocks melt, they do so slowly and gradually because most rocks are made of several minerals, which all have different melting points; moreover, the physical and chemical relationships controlling the melting are complex. As a rock melts, for example, its volume changes. When enough rock is melted, the small globules of melt (generally occurring between mineral grains) link up and soften the rock. Under pressure within the earth, as little as a fraction of a percent of partial melting may be sufficient to cause melt to be squeezed from its source. [20] Melts can stay in place long enough to melt to 20% or even 35%, but rocks are rarely melted in excess of 50%, because eventually the melted rock mass becomes a crystal-and-melt mush that can then ascend en masse as a diapir, which may then cause further decompression melting.

Geochemical implications of partial melting

The degree of partial melting is critical to determination of the characteristics of the magma it produces, and the likelihood that a melt forms reflects the degrees to which incompatible and compatible elements are involved. Incompatible elements commonly include potassium, barium, caesium, and rubidium.

Rock types produced by small degrees of partial melting in the Earth's mantle are typically alkaline (Ca, Na), potassic (K) or peralkaline (in which the aluminium to silica ratio is high). Typically, primitive melts of this composition form lamprophyre, lamproite, kimberlite and sometimes nepheline-bearing mafic rocks such as alkali basalts and essexite gabbros or even carbonatite.

Pegmatite may be produced by low degrees of partial melting of the crust. Some granite-composition magmas are eutectic (or cotectic) melts, and they may be produced by low to high degrees of partial melting of the crust, as well as by fractional crystallization. At high degrees of partial melting of the crust, granitoids such as tonalite, granodiorite and monzonite can be produced, but other mechanisms are typically important in producing them.

Evolution of magmas

Primary melts

When rock melts, the liquid is a primary melt. Primary melts have not undergone any differentiation and represent the starting composition of a magma. In nature it is rare to find primary melts. The leucosomes of migmatites are examples of primary melts. Primary melts derived from the mantle are especially important, and are known as primitive melts or primitive magmas. By finding the primitive magma composition of a magma series it is possible to model the composition of the mantle from which a melt was formed, which is important in understanding evolution of the mantle.[ clarification needed ]

Parental melts

When it is impossible to find the primitive or primary magma composition, it is often useful[ according to whom? ] to attempt to identify a parental melt. A parental melt is a magma composition from which the observed range of magma chemistries has been derived by the processes of igneous differentiation. It need not be a primitive melt.

For instance, a series of basalt flows are assumed to be related to one another. A composition from which they could reasonably be produced by fractional crystallization is termed a parental melt. Fractional crystallization models would be produced to test the hypothesis that they share a common parental melt.

At high degrees of partial melting of the mantle, komatiite and picrite are produced.

Migration and solidification of magmas

Magma develops within the mantle or crust where the temperature and pressure conditions favor the molten state. After its formation, magma buoyantly rises toward the Earth's surface. As it migrates through the crust, magma may collect and reside in magma chambers (though recent work suggests that magma may be stored in trans-crustal crystal-rich mush zones rather than dominantly liquid magma chambers [7] ). Magma can remain in a chamber until it cools and crystallizes forming igneous rock, it erupts as a volcano, or moves into another magma chamber.There are two known processes by which magma changes: by crystallization within the crust or mantle to form a pluton, or by volcanic eruption to become lava or tephra.

Plutonism

When magma cools it begins to form solid mineral phases. Some of these settle at the bottom of the magma chamber forming cumulates that might form mafic layered intrusions. Magma that cools slowly within a magma chamber usually ends up forming bodies of plutonic rocks such as gabbro, diorite and granite, depending upon the composition of the magma. Alternatively, if the magma is erupted it forms volcanic rocks such as basalt, andesite and rhyolite (the extrusive equivalents of gabbro, diorite and granite, respectively).

Volcanism

During a volcanic eruption the magma that leaves the underground is called lava. Lava cools and solidifies relatively quickly compared to underground bodies of magma. This fast cooling does not allow crystals to grow large, and a part of the melt does not crystallize at all, becoming glass. Rocks largely composed of volcanic glass include obsidian, scoria and pumice.

Before and during volcanic eruptions, volatiles such as CO2 and H2O partially leave the melt through a process known as exsolution. Magma with low water content becomes increasingly viscous. If massive exsolution occurs when magma heads upwards during a volcanic eruption, the resulting eruption is usually explosive.

Magma usage for energy production

The Iceland Deep Drilling Project, while drilling several 5,000m holes in an attempt to harness the heat in the volcanic bedrock below the surface of Iceland, struck a pocket of magma at 2,100m in 2009. Because this was only the third time in recorded history that magma had been reached, IDDP decided to invest in the hole, naming it IDDP-1.

A cemented steel case was constructed in the hole with a perforation at the bottom close to the magma. The high temperatures and pressure of the magma steam were used to generate 36MW of power, making IDDP-1 the world's first magma-enhanced geothermal system. [21]

Related Research Articles

Volcano rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber 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.

Basalt A magnesium- and iron-rich extrusive igneous rock

Basalt is a mafic extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of lava rich in magnesium and iron exposed at or very near the surface of a terrestrial planet or a moon. More than 90% of all volcanic rock on Earth is basalt, and the eruption of basalt lava is observed by geologists at about 20 volcanoes per year.

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.

Volcanism

Volcanism is the phenomenon of eruption of molten rock (magma) onto the surface of the Earth or a solid-surface planet or moon, where lava, pyroclastics and volcanic gases erupt through a break in the surface called a vent. It includes all phenomena resulting from and causing magma within the crust or mantle of the body, to rise through the crust and form volcanic rocks on the surface.

Dacite Volcanic rock intermediate in composition between andesite and rhyolite

Dacite is an igneous, volcanic rock. It has an aphanitic to porphyritic texture and is intermediate in composition between andesite and rhyolite. It is composed predominantly of plagioclase feldspar and quartz.

Andesite An intermediate volcanic rock

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

Extrusive rock

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.

Eclogite A dense metamorphic rock formed under high pressure

Eclogite is a metamorphic rock formed when mafic igneous rock is subjected to high pressure. Eclogite forms at pressures greater than those typical of the crust of the Earth. An unusually dense rock, eclogite can play an important role in driving convection within the solid Earth.

Ultramafic rock

Ultramafic rocks are igneous and meta-igneous rocks with a very low silica content, generally >18% MgO, high FeO, low potassium, and are composed of usually greater than 90% mafic minerals. The Earth's mantle is composed of ultramafic rocks. Ultrabasic is a more inclusive term that includes igneous rocks with low silica content that may not be extremely enriched in Fe and Mg, such as carbonatites and ultrapotassic igneous rocks.

Komatiite An ultramafic mantle-derived volcanic rock

Komatiite is a type of ultramafic mantle-derived volcanic rock defined as having crystallised from a lava with ≥ 18 wt% MgO. Komatiites have low silicon, potassium and aluminium, and high to extremely high magnesium content. Komatiite was named for its type locality along the Komati River in South Africa, and frequently displays spinifex texture composed of large dendritic plates of olivine and pyroxene.

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 produces by igneous differentiation is known as a magma series.

Fractional crystallization (geology) One of the main processes of magmatic differentiation

Fractional crystallization, or crystal fractionation, is one of the most important geochemical and physical processes operating within crust and mantle of a rocky planetary body, such as the Earth. It is important in the formation of igneous rocks because it is one of the main processes of magmatic differentiation. Fractional crystallization is also important in the formation of sedimentary evaporite rocks.

The calc-alkaline magma series is one of two main subdivisions of the subalkaline magma series, the other subalkaline magma series being the tholeiitic. 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.

Lava Molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption

Lava is molten rock (magma) that has been expelled from the interior of some planets and some of their moons. 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 700 to 1,200 °C. The solid rock resulting from subsequent cooling is also often described as lava.

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. The magma can be derived from partial melts of existing rocks in either a planet's mantle or crust. Typically, the melting is caused by one or more of three processes: an increase in temperature, a decrease in pressure, or a change in composition. Solidification into rock occurs either below the surface as intrusive rocks or on the surface as extrusive rocks. Igneous rock may form with crystallization to form granular, crystalline rocks, or without crystallization to form natural glasses. Igneous rocks occur in a wide range of geological settings: shields, platforms, orogens, basins, large igneous provinces, extended crust and oceanic 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 krishna chitanya

Tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite rocks or 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.

Earths crustal evolution

Earth's crustal evolution involves the formation, destruction and renewal of the rocky outer shell at that planet's surface.

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