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Connectivity in magmatic systems

Academic lead
Susanna Ebmeier (Earth and Environment)
Sam Pegler (Mathematics), Oliver Harlen (Mathematics)
Project themes
Geophysical flows

More than one in ten of the world's population live within 100 km of an active volcano, and are exposed to threats to life, livelihood and infrastructure from eruptions. Understanding the mechanisms by which magma flows through the Earth’s crust is of fundamental importance to volcanology, and to forecasting volcanic activity. This project will compare time series of measurements of the deformation of the Earth's surface to the predictions of fluid-mechanical models to gain new understanding of the mechanisms for the flow of magma through the Earth’s crust. The most commonly applied models of the magma systems that feed volcanic eruptions assume a simple liquid-filled spherical magma chamber. However, recent evidence suggests that magmatic systems involve complex geometries comprising multiple interconnected magma reservoirs and viscoelastic flow. A rich variety of solid- and fluid-mechanical processes may operate ranging from flow through interconnected conduits, viscoelastic structural deformation, elastic uplift of the Earth’s surface to multiphase and porous dynamics. This project will develop models that incorporate these complex phenomena, investigate the predictions of these models using mathematical analysis, and in turn, produce a novel toolkit for investigating the properties of volcanic systems. The results will give us new insight into deformation signals produced by magma systems, which are important for our ability to forecast volcanic activity.

Figure: Cartoon illustrating the measurement of volcano deformation from satellite imagery (each complete colour transition represents 3cm of displacement) and schematic illustrating some of the factors that contribute to the deformation of the Earth’s surface (after Magee et al., 2018).