Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 73, Issue 9, pp 1369–1375 | Cite as

Hydrothermal hexahydrite spherules erupted during the 2008–2010 summit eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai`i

  • Ken HonEmail author
  • Tim Orr
Research Article


Small (1–3 mm), hollow spherules of hexahydrite have been collected falling out of the magmatic gas plume downwind of Kīlauea’s summit vent. The spherules were observed on eight separate occasions during 2009–2010 when a lake of actively spattering lava was present ~150–200 m below the rim of the vent. The shells of the spherules have a fine bubbly foam structure less than 0.1 mm thick, composed almost entirely of hexahydrite [MgSO4·6H2O] Small microspherules of lava (<5 μm across) along with mineral and rock fragments from the magmatic plume adhered to the outside of the hexahydrite spherules. Phase relationships and the particulate matter in the magmatic plume indicate that the spherules originated as a bubbly solution injected into and mixed with the magmatic plume. The most likely mechanism for production of hexahydrite spherules is boiling of MgSO4-saturated meteoric water in the walls of the conduit above the surface of the lava lake. Solfataric sulfates may thus be recycled and reinjected into the plume, creating particulates of sulfate minerals that can be distributed far from their original source.


Hydrothermal hexahydrite spherules Summit eruption Hawai`i Sulfate Halemaumau Kilauea Basalt 



We gratefully acknowledge assistance in the field from Don Swanson and Kelly Wooten of the USGS. Heather Lowers of the USGS assisted with the SEM work, and Dr. Ken Morris of the UH-Hilo Pharmacy program gave us access to XRD facility. The manuscript was improved by reviews from Tom Wright, Lopaka Lee, Steven Chipera, an anonymous reviewer, and an extremely helpful review by RF Martin.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geology DepartmentUniversity of Hawai`i at HiloHiloUSA
  2. 2.US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano ObservatoryHawai`i National ParkUSA

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