Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 10, pp 2339–2352 | Cite as

Mechanisms of bubble coalescence in silicic magmas

  • Jonathan M. CastroEmail author
  • Alain Burgisser
  • C. Ian Schipper
  • Simona Mancini
Research Article


Bubble coalescence is an important process that strongly affects magmatic degassing. Without coalescence, bubbles remain isolated from one another in the melt, severely limiting gas release. Despite this fact, very little has been done to identify coalescence mechanisms from textures of magmatic rocks or to quantify the dynamics of bubble coalescence in melts. In this paper, we present a systematic study of bubble-coalescence mechanisms and dynamics in natural and experimentally produced bubbly rhyolite magma. We have used a combination of natural observations aided by high-resolution X-ray computed tomography, petrological experiments, and physical models to identify different types of bubble–bubble interaction that lead to coalescence on the timescales of magma ascent and eruption. Our observations and calculations suggest that bubbles most efficiently coalesce when inter-bubble melt walls thin by stretching rather than by melt drainage from between converging bubble walls. Orders of magnitude are more rapid than melt drainage, bubble wall stretching produces walls thin enough that inter-bubble pressure gradients may cause the melt wall to dimple, further enhancing coalescence. To put these results into volcanogical context, we have identified magma ascent conditions where each coalescence mechanism should act, and discuss the physical conditions for preserving coalescence structures in natural pumice. The timescales we propose could improve volcanic eruption models, which currently do not account for bubble coalescence. Although we do not address the effect of shear strain on bubble coalescence, the processes discussed here may operate in several different eruption regimes, including vesiculation of lava domes, post-fragmentation frothing of vulcanian bombs, and bubbling of pyroclasts in conduits.


Bubbles Bubble coalescence Silicic magma Magmatic degassing Volcano 



The authors thank J. E. Gardner for experimental samples and discussions. J.M.C. thanks the ISTO and the ERC grant 202844 under the European FP7 for supporting this project. Benoit Cordonnier provided useful comments on an earlier draft. The authors thank A. Proussevitch and an anonymous reviewer who provided comments that greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan M. Castro
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alain Burgisser
    • 3
  • C. Ian Schipper
    • 3
  • Simona Mancini
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of GeosciencesUniversity of MainzMainzGermany
  2. 2.School of GeosciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.Institut des Sciences de la Terre d’Orléans (ISTO)Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Université d’OrléansOrléans Cedex 2France

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