Explosive-effusive-explosive: The role of magma ascent rates and paths in modulating caldera eruptions

Publication type

Journal Article

Research Area


Research Team

Volcanic Petrology Group


One of the biggest challenges in volcanology is assessing the role of magma properties (volatile budgets, storage depths, and ascent rates) in controlling eruption explosivity. We use a new approach based on apatite to estimate volatile contents and magma ascent rates from a sequence of sub-Plinian, effusive, and Vulcanian eruption deposits at Rabaul caldera (Papua New Guinea) emplaced in 2006 CE to probe the mechanisms responsible for the sudden transitions in eruption styles. Our findings show that all magmas were originally stored at similar conditions (2–4 km depth and 1.8–2.5 wt% H2O in the melt); only the magma that formed the lava flow stalled and degassed at a shallower level (0.2–1.5 km) for several months. A more energetic batch of magma rose from depth, bypassed the transient reservoir, and ascended within ≤8 h to Earth’s surface (mean velocity ≥0.2 m/s), yielding the initial sub-Plinian phase of the eruption. The shallowly degassed magma was then able to reach the surface as a lava flow, likely through the path opened by the sub-Plinian magma. The magma of the last Vulcanian phase ascended without storage at a shallow depth, albeit more slowly (ascent rate 0.03–0.1 m/s) than the sub-Plinian magma. Our study illustrates how the complexity of plumbing systems may affect eruption styles, including at other volcanic systems, and have implications for interpreting volcano monitoring data.

Publication Details



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