Bulletin of Volcanology

, 72:85 | Cite as

The role of magma chamber-fault interaction in caldera forming eruptions

  • A. G. Simakin
  • A. Ghassemi
Research Article


This paper examines the role of the position and orientation of a regional fault in the roof of a magma chamber on stress distribution, mechanical failure, and dyking using 2D finite element numerical simulations. The study pertains to the magma chamber behavior in the relatively short time intervals of several hundreds to thousand of years. The magma chamber is represented as an elliptical inclusion (eccentricity, a/b = 0.12) at a relative depth, H/a, of 0.9. The fault has a 45° dip and is represented by a frictionless fracture. The temperature field in the host rock is calculated assuming a quasisteady-state thermal regime that develops through periodic episodes of magma supply. The rheology of the surrounding rocks is treated using viscoelasticity with temperature activated strain-rate dependent viscosity. Strain weakening of the rocks in the ductile zone is described within the frame of the Dynamic Power Law model . The magma pressure is coupled with the deformation of the rock mass hosting the chamber, including the fault. The variation of magma pressure in response to magma supply and chamber deformation is calculated in the elastic and viscoelastic regimes. The latter corresponds to slow filling, while the former represents a filling time much less than the viscous relaxation time scale. The resulting “equation of state” for the magma chamber couples the magma pressure with the chamber volume in the elastic regime, and with the filling rate for the viscoelastic regime. Analysis of stresses is used to predict dyke propagation conditions, and the mechanical failure of the chamber roof for different fault positions and magma overpressures. Results show that an outward dipping fault located on the periphery of the chamber roof hinders the propagation of dykes to the surface, causing magma to accumulate under the footwall of the fault. At high to moderate overpressures (30–40 MPa), the fault causes localized shear failure and chamber roof collapse that might lead to the first stage of a caldera-forming eruption.


Caldera Fault Fracture propagation Liquid inclusion Magma chamber Viscoelastic Yellowstone caldera 



This research was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under Cooperative Agreement DE-FG36-06GO95002. This support does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Energy of the views expressed in this paper. Additional support was provided by Texas A&M University, University of North Dakota, and RFBR research (Grant # 07-05-00629). The authors express their gratitude to Drs. John Stix, Guillaume Girard and Agust Gudmundsson for their constructive comments and suggestions. Finally, we thank Ms. Darla-Jean Weatherford for her editorial comments which improved the text.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute Experimental Mineralogy RASChernogolovkaRussia
  2. 2.Petroleum EngineeringTexas A & M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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