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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Evidence for the Largest Volcanic Eruptions from the Tiniest of Bubbles and Crystals

20th October 2015, 17:30 to 18:30, Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College, Professor James E Gardner, the University of Texas at Austin, USA

Volcanic eruptions are awe inspiring natural events. Violent ones occur when molten rock, called magma, disintegrates and explodes into the atmosphere. Not all are violent, however, and instead magma can sometimes quiescently pour out as lava. It is critical to understand what controls whether magma erupts violently or as lava, but the lethal nature of eruptions makes them all but impossible for scientists to study up close, except in the most benign of circumstances. Even more daunting is the fact that everything that dictates eruptive behavior happens while magma is hidden from view deep in the Earth. 

Volcanologists are left to seek evidence from the products of the eruption. Before erupting, magma at depth consists of hot silicate liquid with gases dissolved in it – like the carbon dioxide dissolved in champagne while still in the bottle. When those gases are released they form tiny bubbles which propel the magma upwards and drive eruptions, leaving behind cavities called vesicles. In response, the silicate liquid begins to solidify, growing micrometer sized crystals called microlites. Professor James Gardner will discuss how experimental laboratory simulations can calibrate the textures of those vesicles and microlites in order so they can be used as evidence for what happens while magma rises and ultimately erupts at the Earth’s surface.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Details about Professor James E Gardner

Directions to Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College

Map - Van Mildert College is denoted as building No. 4

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.