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Volcanic Geotopes and Their Geosites Preserved in an Arid Climate Related to Landscape and Climate Changes Since the Neogene in Northern Saudi Arabia: Harrat Hutaymah (Hai’il Region)

Abstract

Maars and tuff rings are some of the most common volcanic landforms on Earth. They are inferred to be the product of the explosive interaction between rising magma (mostly basaltic) and various groundwater sources or surface water bodies. Maar and tuff ring volcanoes are commonly associated with extensive scoria cone fields that are fed by dispersed volcanic vents, providing access to the surface for magma over a long period of time (thousands to millions of years’ timescale). The presence of maar and tuff ring volcanoes, therefore, is an important signifier of the availability of water from sub-surface and/or surface water sources. As environmental conditions change over time, the groundwater table, as well as surface water availability, can change dramatically and this is likely be reflected in the type of volcanoes formed on the surface. Such changes are the most graphic and visible in volcanic fields that are today located in arid environments, where the presence of young volcanoes formed through interactions with water demonstrates how the environment can change over geological timescales. Therefore, these areas have high geoeducational values and can contribute to our understanding of how external (water sources controlled by climatic factors) and internal (magmatic) forces can shape the style of volcanism of a volcanic field. Harrat Hutaymah is one of the excellent locations where there is great abundance of maars and tuff rings. They are located in an area dominated today by various types of deserts. Harrat Hutaymah, therefore, demonstrates the global geological changes that can affect the style of volcanism and hence the resulting volcanic landscape. The richness of the region in archaeological sites and early settlements indicates the importance of this region for the early evolution of civilizations in the Middle East, which is likely to have been enhanced and/or modified by similar environmental changes over a much smaller timescale. Harrat Hutaymah provides a firm basis to demonstrate global changes through its volcanic heritage that are easily accessible and well exposed.

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Acknowledgments

This report is based on research results of the King Abdulaziz University’s Volcanic Risk in Saudi Arabia (VORiSA) project. Critical comments from Journal reviewers made this note more valuable. Dr. Kate Arentsen helped to improve the manuscript significantly. Logistical help by the Saudi Police Force of the region, village and town councils are greatly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Károly Németh.

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Moufti, M.R., Németh, K., El-Masry, N. et al. Volcanic Geotopes and Their Geosites Preserved in an Arid Climate Related to Landscape and Climate Changes Since the Neogene in Northern Saudi Arabia: Harrat Hutaymah (Hai’il Region). Geoheritage 7, 103–118 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12371-014-0110-3

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Keywords

  • Maar
  • Tuff ring
  • Arid
  • Base surge
  • Diatreme
  • Mantle xenolith
  • Geotope
  • Geosite
  • Geomorphosite
  • Geoheritage
  • Monogenetic volcanic field
  • Phreatomagmatic