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Large-volume, high-crystallinity, chemically homogeneous ignimbrites, dubbed ‘monotonous intermediates’, provide a unique opportunity to investigate the evolution of crustal magmatic reservoirs. We present the results of hydrothermal experiments on a dacite from Fish Canyon Tuff (FCT) in Colorado (USA), a classic example of a monotonous intermediate deposit, in order to characterize the variations in chemical and physical properties of hydrous dacite magmas as a function of temperature. The experiments (200 MPa, 720–1100°C) span the inferred pre-eruptive conditions of FCT magmas, and are shown to provide the best match to the chemical and physical properties of the erupted magmas at 790±10°C under conditions at or close to water-saturation. The results show the important effect of water content in controlling the chemical and physical evolution of magma, and the contrasted behaviour of water-saturated v. water-undersaturated magmas. In both cases, however, there is a broad interval of temperature (200°C) over which crystal fraction changes little. By recasting this behaviour in terms of enthalpy, rather than temperature, as the independent variable we show that this interval corresponds to a minimum in the change in crystallinity per unit of energy added or subtracted from the system, such that small perturbations to the heat content of the system (e.g. by cooling or new magma injections) results in very little change in magma properties. The crystal content in this interval is 55–65 wt%, which is close to the phenocryst content (40–55 wt%) of monotonous intermediates. We propose that crystal-rich magmas tend to settle in this ‘petrological trap’, changing little in physical and chemical properties over time as the system grows. Petrological trapping enables very large volumes of intermediate magma to accumulate in the shallow crust until such time as the net buoyancy force of these crystal-rich magma is sufficient to overcome the strength of the roof rocks, leading to a potentially very large eruption.

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