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USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory, Vancouver, Washington

Volcano-Groundwater Interaction

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Project Chief

    Larry G. Mastin
    USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory
    1300 SE Cardinal Court, Building 10, Suite 100
    Vancouver, Washington 98683
    Phone: (360) 993-8925

Project Description

In active volcanic areas, groundwater can affect intrusive and eruptive activity by influencing cooling rates, modifying the strength of rocks in the volcanic edifice, and converting thermal energy of magma to explosive mechanical energy. One of the greatest hazards posed by groundwater exists when it is heated by magma and violently released, as eruptions of either pure steam or steam mixed with fragmented magma or country rock. The objective of this project is to identify the conditions under which groundwater in volcanoes poses a potential hazard. To accomplish this, the following methods are employed:
  • Theoretical investigations:
    • Thermodynamic studies of the conditions under which groundwater, or water-magma mixtures, can be most explosive.
    • Numerical modelling of pressure and other flow properties of magma in eruptive conduits, to identify the conditions under which water can enter and mix with magma.

  • Site-specific investigations:
    • Interdisciplinary studies in Alaska, Hawaii, and the Cascades, to identify the degree of involvement of water in specific eruptions, and the hydrologic or magmatic conditions that could have affected their explosivity.

Project Highlights

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05/26/04, Lyn Topinka