Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 10, pp 2273–2287 | Cite as

Thermal diffusivity of rhyolitic glasses and melts: effects of temperature, crystals and dissolved water

  • William L. Romine
  • Alan G. WhittingtonEmail author
  • Peter I. Nabelek
  • Anne M. Hofmeister
Research Article


Thermal diffusivity (D) was measured using laser-flash analysis on pristine and remelted obsidian samples from Mono Craters, California. These high-silica rhyolites contain between 0.013 and 1.10 wt% H2O and 0 to 2 vol% crystallites. At room temperature, D glass varies from 0.63 to 0.68 mm2 s−1, with more crystalline samples having higher D. As T increases, D glass decreases, approaching a constant value of ∼0.55 mm2 s−1 near 700 K. The glass data are fit with a simple model as an exponential function of temperature and a linear function of crystallinity. Dissolved water contents up to 1.1 wt% have no statistically significant effect on the thermal diffusivity of the glass. Upon crossing the glass transition, D decreases rapidly near ∼1,000 K for the hydrous melts and ∼1,200 K for anhydrous melts. Rhyolitic melts have a D melt of ∼0.51 mm2 s−1. Thermal conductivity (k = D·ρ·C P) of rhyolitic glass and melt increases slightly with T because heat capacity (C P) increases with T more strongly than density (ρ) and D decrease. The thermal conductivity of rhyolitic melts is ∼1.5 W m−1 K−1, and should vary little over the likely range of magmatic temperatures and water contents. These values of D and k are similar to those of major crustal rock types and granitic protoliths at magmatic temperatures, suggesting that changes in thermal properties accompanying partial melting of the crust should be relatively minor. Numerical models of shallow rhyolite intrusions indicate that the key difference in thermal history between bodies that quench to obsidian, and those that crystallize, results from the release of latent heat of crystallization. Latent heat release enables bodies that crystallize to remain at high temperatures for much longer times and cool more slowly than glassy bodies. The time to solidification is similar in both cases, however, because solidification requires cooling through the glass transition in the first case, and cooling only to the solidus in the second.


Rhyolite Obsidian Thermal diffusivity Thermal conductivity Confocal microscopy Mono Craters 



Will Romine gratefully acknowledges support from a USGS Kleinman grant that supported fieldwork at Mono Craters, and scholarship support from the MU Department of Geological Sciences during his MS degree. This work was supported by NSF grants 0440119 and 0911116 to AW and PN, and 0711020 and 0911428 to AMH.

Supplementary material

Movie A1

Movie showing rotation of the 3D confocal microscopy image for sample SCE. The image is 224 × 224 × 100 μm. (MOV 26558 kb)


  1. Annen C, Sparks RSJ (2002) Effects of repetitive emplacement of basaltic intrusions on thermal evolution and melt generation in the crust. Earth Planet Sci Lett 203:937–955CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Annen C, Scaillet B, Sparks RSJ (2006) Thermal constraints on the emplacement rate of a large intrusive complex: the Manaslu Leucogranite, Nepal Himalaya. J Petrol 47:71–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bagdassarov N, Dingwell D (1994) Thermal properties of vesicular rhyolite. J Volc Geotherm Res 60:179–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blumm J, Lemarchand S (2002) Influence of test conditions on the accuracy of laser flash measurements. High Temp High Pres 34:523–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bouhifd MA, Whittington AG, Roux J, Richet P (2006) Effect of water on the heat capacity of polymerized aluminosilicate glasses and melts. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 70:711–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Branlund JM, Hofmeister AM (2007) Thermal diffusivity of quartz to 1000 °C: effects of impurities and the a-b phase transition. Phys Chem Mineral 34:581–595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Degiovanni A, Andre S, Maillet D (1994) Phonic conductivity measurement of a semi-transparent material. In: Tong TW (ed) Thermal conductivity 22. Technomic, Lancaster, pp 623–633Google Scholar
  8. Durham WB, Mirkovich VV, Heard HC (1987) Thermal diffusivity of igneous rocks at elevated pressure and temperature. J Geophys Res 92:11615–11634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gualda GAR, Ghiorso MS, Lemons RV, Carley TL (2012) Rhyolite-MELTS: a modified calibration of MELTS optimized for silica-rich, fluid-bearing magmatic systems. J Petrol 53:875–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harris AJL, Rowland SK (2009) Effusion rate controls on lava flow length and the role of heat loss: a review. In: Thordarson T, Self S, Larsen G, Rowland SK, Hoskuldsson A (eds) Studies in volcanology: the Legacy of George Walker. IAVCEI Spec Pub 2:33–51Google Scholar
  11. Higgins MD (2006) Quantitative textural measurements in igneous and metamorphic petrology. Cambridge University Press, p 276Google Scholar
  12. Höfer M, Schilling FR (2002) Heat transfer in quartz, orthoclase, and sanidineat elevated temperature. Phys Chem Minerals 29:571–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hofmeister AM (2010) Thermal diffusivity of oxide perovskite compounds at elevated temperature. J Appl Phys 107:103532. doi: 10.1063/1.3371815 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hofmeister AM, Whittington AG (2012) Effects of hydration, annealing, and melting on heat transport properties of fused quartz and fused silica from laser-flash analysis. J Non-Cryst Solids 358:1072–1082CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hofmeister AM, Pertermann M, Branlund J, Whittington AG (2006) Geophysical implications of reduction in thermal conductivity due to hydration. Geophys Res Lett 33:L11310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hofmeister AM, Pertermann M, Branlund JM (2007) Thermal conductivity of the earth. In: Schubert G (ed). Treatise in geophysics. (G. Schubert, Ed.-In-Chief) V. 2 Mineral physics (G.D. Price, ed.). Elsevier: The Netherlands, pp 543–578Google Scholar
  17. Hofmeister AM, Whittington AG, Pertermann M (2009) Transport properties of high albite crystals, near-endmember feldspar and pyroxene glasses, and their melts to high temperature. Contribs Mineral Petrol 158:381–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ihinger PD, Hervig RL, McMillan PF (1994) Analytical methods for volatiles in glasses. Rev Mineral 30:67–121Google Scholar
  19. Jaeger JC (1964) Thermal effects of intrusions. Rev Geophys 2:443–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lange RA, Carmichael ISE (1990) Thermodynamic properties of silicate liquids with emphasis on density, thermal expansion and compressibility. Rev Mineral 24:25–64Google Scholar
  21. Lee DW, Kingerly WD (1960) Radiation energy transfer and thermal conductivity of ceramic oxides. J Am Cer Soc 43:594–607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lindroth DP (1974) Thermal diffusivity of six igneous rocks at elevated temperatures and reduced pressures, US Bureau of Mines. Rep Inv 7954:33Google Scholar
  23. Manley CR (1992) Extended cooling and viscous flow of large, hot rhyolite lavas: implications of numerical modeling results. J Volc Geotherm Res 53:27–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Marsh BD (1989) Magma chambers. Ann Rev Earth Planet Sci 17:438–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mehling H, Hautzinger G, Nilsson O, Fricke J, Hofmann R, Hahn O (1998) Thermal diffusivity of semitransparent materials determined by the laser-flash method applying a new mathematical model. Internatl J Thermophys 19:941–949CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nabelek PI, Whittington AG, Hofmeister AM (2010) Strain heating as a mechanism for partial melting and ultrahigh temperature metamorphism in convergent orogens: implications of temperature-dependent thermal diffusivity and rheology. J Geophys Res 115:B12417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nabelek PI, Hofmeister AM, Whittington AG (2012) The influence of temperature-dependent thermal diffusivity on the conductive cooling rates of plutons and temperature-time paths in contact aureoles. Earth Planet Sci Lett 317–318:157–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Neuville D, Courtial P, Dingwell D, Richet P (1993) Thermodynamic and rheological properties of rhyolite and andesite melts. Contrib Mineral Petrol 113:572–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Newman S, Stolper EM, Epstein S (1986) Measurement of water in rhyolitic glasses: calibration of an infrared spectroscopic technique. Am Mineral 71:1527–1541Google Scholar
  30. Ochs FA III, Lange RA (1999) The density of hydrous magmatic liquids. Science 283:1314–1317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Osako M, Ito E, Yoneda A (2004) Simultaneous measurements of thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity for garnet and olivine under high pressure. Phys Earth Planet Inter 143–144:311–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Parker JW, Jenkins JR, Butler PC, Abbott GI (1961) Flash method of determining thermal diffusivity, heat capacity, and thermal conductivity. J Appl Phys 32:1679–1684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pertermann M, Hofmeister AM (2006) Thermal diffusivity of olivine-group minerals. Am Mineral 91:1747–1760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pertermann M, Whittington AG, Hofmeister AM, Spera FJ, Zayak J (2008) Transport properties of low-sanidine single crystals, glasses and melts at high temperature. Contrib Mineral Petrol 155:689–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Richet P, Whittington A, Behrens H, Holtz F, Ohlhorst S, Wilke M (2000) Water and the density of silicate glasses. Contribs Mineral Petrol 138:337–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Romine W (2008) Flow and heat transfer properties of Mono Craters rhyolites: effects of temperature, water content, and crystallinity. M.S. Thesis, University of Missouri, p 121Google Scholar
  37. Ross CS (1962) Microlites in glassy volcanic rocks. Am Mineral 47:723–740Google Scholar
  38. Ross RG, Andersson P, Sundqvist B, Bäckström G (1984) Thermal conductivity of solids and liquids under pressure. Rep Prog Phys 47:1347–1402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stein J, Shankland TJ, Nitsan U (1981) Radiative thermal conductivity in obsidian and estimates of heat transfer in magma bodies. J Geophys Res 86:3684–3688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stolper E (1982) The speciation of water in silicate melts. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 46:2609–2620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tenner TJ, Lange RA, Downs RT (2007) The albite fusion curve reexamined: new experiments and the high-pressure density and compressibility of high albite and NaAlSi3O8 liquid. Am Mineral 92:1573–1585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Whittington AG, Hofmeister AM, Nabelek PI (2009) Temperature-dependent thermal diffusivity of Earth’s crust and implications for magmatism. Nature 458:319–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zhang Y, Xu Z, Liu Y (2003) Viscosity of hydrous rhyolitic melts inferred from kinetic experiments, and a new viscosity model. Am Mineral 88:1741–1752Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • William L. Romine
    • 1
    • 3
  • Alan G. Whittington
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter I. Nabelek
    • 1
  • Anne M. Hofmeister
    • 2
  1. 1.101 Geological SciencesUniversity of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Math and ScienceMissouri Valley CollegeMarshallUSA

Personalised recommendations