Basalt, Unveiling Fluid-filled Fractures, Inducing Sediment Intra-void Transport, Ephemerally:Examples from Katla 1918

Owen, Jacqueline and Shea, Thomas and Tuffen, Hugh (2019) Basalt, Unveiling Fluid-filled Fractures, Inducing Sediment Intra-void Transport, Ephemerally:Examples from Katla 1918. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 369. pp. 121-144. ISSN 0377-0273

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This article documents textures within basaltic Katla 1918 pyroclasts, where particle-filled fractures and bubbles have been observed. These features are analogous to tuffisite veins; particle-filled fractures which represent the preserved remains of transient degassing pathways in shallow conduits. Such fractures have long been considered restricted to high viscosity silicic melts. However, through BSE images and compositional maps, we have identified similar tuffisite-like features in crystal-poor basalt pyroclasts from the 1918 CE subglacial eruption of Katla, Iceland (K1918). Clast textures record transient mobility of juvenile/lithic particles, melt droplets and gas through magmatic fractures and connected vesicles. Key evidence includes (1) the presence of variably sintered fine-ash particles within variably healed fractures and vesicles (present in >80% of clasts analysed), (2) compositional maps that reveal the presence of foreign particles within preserved and healed permeable pathways, and (3) lower vesicularities immediately surrounding ‘fracture’ walls, suggestive of diffusive volatile loss into a permeable network. The 1918 CE eruption of Katla occurred under a thick glacier, however the ice was quickly breached, owing partly to the explosive nature of the eruption. We propose that the formation and preservation of these transient permeable networks have been facilitated by rapid decompression of a relatively volatile-rich magma, in a confined subglacial environment, with combined magmatic and phreatomagmatic fragmentation, followed by rapid quenching by meltwater. Tuffisite veins in rhyolite demonstrate repeated fracture-healing cycles, which drive incremental release of overpressured gas and help to defuse explosive eruptions. Interestingly, the permeable network at Katla failed to defuse the 1918 CE eruption, which involved a particularly violent subglacial eruptive phase. It is unclear whether this demonstrates an inability of mafic tuffisite-like features to efficiently degas magma (perhaps owing to the especially transient nature of permeable pathways in low viscosity magmas) or an ability to enhance fragmentation by providing infiltration pathways for external water. The latter scenario may explain the rapid melting of the overlying glacier as the large surface area-to-volume ratio of fractured magma would allow rapid heat transfer. Nevertheless, we document a previously unrecognised texture in basaltic magmas. It is intriguing why it has not, to the best of our knowledge, been documented elsewhere. Have these permeable pathways been overlooked in the past (e.g. mistaken for bad sample preparation or not noticed without high magnification BSE images) and are in fact a widespread phenomenon in subglacial (and other?) basalts; or do our samples in fact represent a rarely preserved texture? Either way, they offer a new insight into the degassing and fragmentation of subglacial basalt.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 369, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2018.11.002
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22 Jun 2019 08:52
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2020 04:40