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Magma mixing: petrological process and volcanological tool

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0377-0273(76)90016-0
  • Earth Science


Abstract Magma mixing is a widespread, if not universal igneous phenomenon of variable importance. The evidence for magma mixing is found primarily in glassy tephra; the consolidation of lava obscures the evidence. Inclusions of glass in big crystals in tephra, because of their greater range in composition compared to the whole rock and the residual glass, indicate that the big crystals were derived from separate systems which mixed together prior to and during eruption. The observed or reconstructed concentration of K 2O in inclusions of glass in large crystals represent the composition of the contaminant and host systems. Selective enrichment in K 2O during entrapment of melt by growing crystals is shown to be negligible. The weight percents of K 2O in host, contaminant and residual glass and bulk rock determine the proportions of contaminant and host required to yield either the residual glass or bulk rock. In several cases the proportion of contaminant required is substantially larger than the proportion of crystals in the hybrid magma; therefore, by heat budget argument, the contaminant was partly liquid when contamination began. In some tephra individual phenocrysts contain glasses which are more silicic toward the center of the crystal indicating that the crystal grew from a melt whose composition changed in the opposite sense to that expected for progressive solidification of a closed system. Space time associations of compositionally distinct glassy tephra with contaminated magmas suggest coexistence of basaltic and silicic melts within magma systems. Evidence of contamination is present in most tephra studied so far. Magma mixing appears to be the prevalent process whereby contamination occurs. Magma mixing seems to be particularly evident in systems where there is independent evidence for a vapor-saturated magma reservoir. Probably vapor saturation promotes mixing in magma systems. Magma mixing probably is an important mechanism of compositional diversification (differentiation) of volcanic rocks from continental margin and possibly other environments. Textural evidence of the onset of magma mixing can be related to disturbance of a complex reservoir immediately before ascent and eruption. Thus, conditions before mixing can be ascribed to the reservoir. In this way it is possible to learn about the reservoir: its composition, its diversity, its depth, its walls. It is also possible to learn about the causes of eruption: whether by increase in gas pressure due to either progressive consolidation, or heating from below by an injection of hot magma, or by encounter with ground water; whether by buoyant rise. Evaluation of these problems requires also a thorough knowledge of the chronology of particular eruptions. Thus, magma mixing is a useful volcanological tool.

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