Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 163–186

Origins and energetics of maar volcanoes: examples from the ultrapotassic Sabatini Volcanic District (Roman Province, Central Italy)

  • Gianluca Sottili
  • Danilo M. Palladino
  • Mario Gaeta
  • Matteo Masotta
Research Article


Maar volcanoes represent a common volcano type which is produced by the explosive interaction of magma with external water. Here, we provide information on a number of maars in the ultrapotassic Sabatini Volcanic District (SVD, Roman Province) as young as ∼90 ka. The SVD maars are characterised in terms of crater and ejecta ring morphologies, eruptive successions and magma compositions, in light of the local substrate settings, with the aim of assessing magma–water interaction conditions, eruption energetics and genetic mechanisms. Feeder magmas spanned the whole SVD differentiation trend from trachybasalts–shoshonites to phonolites. From the ejected lithic fragments from aquifer rocks, the range of depth of magma–water explosive interaction is estimated to have been mostly at ∼400–600 m below ground level, with a single occurrence of surficial interaction in palustrine–lacustrine environment. In particular, the interaction with external water may have triggered the explosive behaviour of poorly differentiated magmas, whereas it may have acted only as a late controlling factor of the degree of fragmentation and eruption style for the most differentiated magma batches during low-flux ascent in an incipiently fragmented state. Crater sizes, ejecta volumes and ballistic data allow a reconstruction of the energy budget of SVD maar-forming eruptions. Erupted tephra volumes from either monogenetic or polygenetic maars ranged 0.004–0.07 km3 during individual maar-forming eruptions, with corresponding total magma thermal energies of 8 × 1015–4 × 1017 J. Based on energy partitioning and volume balance of erupted magmas and lithic fractions vs. crater holes, we consider the different contributions of explosive excavation of the substrate vs. subsidence in forming the SVD maar craters. Following available models based on crater sizes, highly variable fractions (5–50%) of the magma thermal energies would have been required for crater excavation. It appears that subsidence may have played a major role in some SVD maars characterised by low lithic contents, whilst substrate excavation became increasingly significant with increasing degrees of aquifer fragmentation.


Maar Eruption energy Crater excavation Crater subsidence Hydromagmatism Potassic volcanism 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gianluca Sottili
    • 1
    • 2
  • Danilo M. Palladino
    • 1
  • Mario Gaeta
    • 1
  • Matteo Masotta
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraSapienza-Università di RomaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Istituto di Geologia Ambientale e Geoingegneria-CNRRomeItaly

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