Abstract

Pyroclast textures document volcanic conduit processes and may be key to hazard forecasting. Here we show that the relative abundances of mingled, variably crystallized domains in pyroclasts from scoria cone eruptions provide a record of magma ascent velocity and can be used to predict the onset of violent Strombolian activity. Scoria clasts from the Croscat complex scoria cone (Spain) ubiquitously show micrometer- to centimeter-sized, microlite-rich domains (MRD) intermingled with volumetrically dominant, microlite-poor domains (MPD). Glass and bulk composition show that MRDs formed by microlite crystallization of MPDs, the former residing longer in a relatively cooler, degassed zone lining the conduit walls, the latter traveling faster in the central, hotter streamline. MPD and MRD magmas intermingled along the interface between the two velocity zones. The proportion of MPD and MRD in different tephra layers reflects the extent of the fast- and slow-flowing zones, thus reflecting the ascent velocity profile of magma during the different phases. At Croscat, the MPD/MRD volume ratio increased rapidly during the early Strombolian activity, peaked around the Strombolian to violent Strombolian transition, and then decreased smoothly irrespective of shifts in eruptive style. We suggest that magma ascent velocity escalated during the Strombolian phase due to the buoyant push of the underlying, volatile-rich magma that was about to drive the following violent Strombolian activity. Monitoring the MPD/MRD ratio of tephra during ongoing scoria cone eruptions may reveal changes in magma flow conditions and could forecast the onset of hazardous violent Strombolian activity.

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