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Pressure evolution in shallow magma chambers upon buoyancy‐driven replenishment

Papale P., C.P. Montagna, A. Longo (2017).
G3 – Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 18/3, 1214–1224, doi:10.1002/2016GC006731.


The invasion of active magma chambers by primitive magma of deeper provenance is a frequent occurrence in volcanic systems, and it is commonly associated with pressurization. Chamber replenishment is driven by pressure and buoyancy forces that cause magma ascent towards shallow depths. We examine the end-member case of pure buoyancy-driven (natural) convection in crustal reservoirs deriving from the presence of degassed, dense magma at shallow level, that can originate a gravitational instability. Space-time-dependent numerical simulations of magma dynamics in composite underground systems reveal highly nonlinear pressure evolution dominated by decompression at shallow depths. This counterintuitive result originates from the compressible nature of multiphase magmas and their complex convection and mixing dynamics. Shallow magma chamber decompression on replenishment is favored by large volatile contents of the uprising magma, resulting in large density contrasts among the resident and the incoming components. These results show that the intuitive concept of magma chamber pressurization upon replenishment may not always hold in real situations dominated by buoyancy, and provide new perspectives for the interpretation of geophysical records at active volcanoes.