The analysis of deep magma reservoirs could reveal crucial information about volcanic eruptions, allowing for a more precise anticipation of eruptive events. This is suggested by a study conducted by scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Bristol, published in the journal ‘Science Advances’. Led by Catherine Booth, the team examined magma 20 kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface, where rocks melt before ascending to higher chambers.

Currently, experts explain, there are no technologies capable of predicting volcanic eruption risks, which can have devastating impacts on people, the environment, and infrastructure. Researchers utilized data from 60 highly explosive volcanic eruptions across the United States, New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Indonesia.

According to the findings, phenomena occurring deep underground are closely linked to eruptions. Specifically, the frequency, composition, and scale of eruptions are correlated with the time it takes for magma to form and ascend from deep reservoirs beneath the Earth’s crust. These new insights, experts argue, could form the basis for developing more accurate eruption prediction technologies. “We focused on understanding magma source reservoirs in the depths,” Booth explains, “where molten rock is stored before an eruption. By combining collected data with advanced computer models, we were able to examine the composition, structure, and history of rocks deep within the Earth’s crust. We found that eruptions are primarily driven by magma buoyancy, although other factors play significant roles, such as reservoir size.”

Magma buoyancy is a parameter related to the chemical composition and density of the molten rock compared to the surrounding solid rock. “When magma can remain buoyant,” the expert further notes, “it rises and creates fractures in the solid overlying rock, flowing through the fractures very rapidly, causing an eruption.” “Improving our understanding of the processes underlying volcanic activity,” adds colleague and co-author Matt Jackson, “is crucial to shed light on the factors driving eruptions. Our work represents a crucial step toward better monitoring and more accurate prediction of these geological events. In the next steps, we will strive to refine the models, incorporating three-dimensional flow and considering the different compositions of fluids, as in this study we only considered certain parameters. Ultimately, this knowledge will help us be better prepared for extreme events.”

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