Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 275–289 | Cite as

Magma-water interactions in subaqueous and emergent basaltic

  • Peter Kokelaar


In the subaqueous growth and emergence of a basaltic volcano clasts are formed by one or a combination of (1) explosive release of magmatic volatiles; (2) explosive expansion and collapse of steam formed at magma-water contact surfaces; (3) explosive expansion of steam following enclosure of water in magma, or entrapment of water close to magma; and (4) cooling-contraction. These processes, named respectivelymagmatic explosivity, contact-surface steam explosivity, bulk interaction steam explosivity, andcooling-contraction granulation, can be enhanced by mutual interaction and feedback. The first three (explosive) processes are limited at certain water depths (hydrostatic pressures) and become increasingly vigorous at shallower levels. The depth of onset of magmatic explosivity depends largely on juvenile volatile content; it is up to 200 m for tholeiitic magmas and up to 1 km for alkalic magmas. At the depth where formation of clastic deposits becomes predominant over effusion of lavas, magmatic explosivity is subordinate to steam explosivity as a clast-forming process. The upward transition to accumulation of dominantly clastic deposits is not simply related to the onset of substantial exsolution of magmatic volatiles and can occur without it. Contact-surface explosivity commonly requires initiation by a vigorous impact between magma and water and, although no certain depth limit is known, likelihood of such explosivity decreases rapidly with depth. Clast generation by bulk interaction explosivity appears to be restricted to depths much shallower than that of the critical pressure of water, which in sea water is at about 3 km. Cooling-contraction granulation can occur in any depth of water, but at shallow levels may be replaced by contact-surface explosivity. During continuous eruption under water, tephra can be ejected and deposited within a cupola of steam such that rapid quenching does not occur. Emergent volcanoes are characterized by distinctive steam-explosive activity that results primarily from a bulk interaction between rapidly ascending magma and a highly mobile slurry of clastic material, water, and steam. The water gets into the vent by flooding across or through the top of the tephra pile, and violent explosions cease when this access is sealed. The eruptions during emergence of Surtsey and Capelinhos typify the distinctive explosive activity, the style and controls of which are different from those of maar volcanoes.


Steam Tephra Critical Pressure Steam Explosivity Shallow Level 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Kokelaar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesUniversity of UlsterNewtownabbeyUK

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