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Inferring Volcanic Degassing Processes from Vesicle Size Distributions

Blower, J.D.; Keating, J.P.; Mader, H.M.; Phillips, J.C.


Keyword(s): bubble size distributions; fractals; nucleation; volcanism

Abstract: Both power law and exponential vesicle size distributions (VSDs) have been observed in many different types of volcanic rocks. We present results of computer simulations and laboratory analogue experiments which reproduce these findings and show that the distributions can be interpreted as the product of continuous bubble nucleation resulting from non-equilibrium degassing. This ongoing nucleation causes the bubbles to evolve through an exponential size distribution into a power law size distribution as nucleation and growth progress. These findings may explain the apparent contradiction between present models of bubble growth in magmas, which predict that degassing in explosive eruptions is a non-equilibrium process, and models of conduit flow, which assume perfect equilibrium degassing. The process of continuous nucleation is the mechanism whereby the volcanic system maintains near-equilibrium in the case of rapid depressurization and slow volatile diffusion. Notes: J.D. Blower, H.M. Mader & J.C. Phillips Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol,BS8 1RJ, U.K.

7 Pages

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