July 14, 2024
New Theory Explains the Nature of Volcanic Fountaining

New Theory Explains the Nature of Volcanic Fountaining

A team of scientists from various institutions, including Earth scientists, meteorologists, geologists, and volcanologists, has developed a new theory to explain the phenomenon of volcanic fountaining. The team conducted their research on the 2021 eruption of Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano, which showcased spectacular instances of volcanic fountaining. This new theory aims to shed light on how and why volcanic fountaining occurs and what drives its energy.

Volcanic fountaining is a visually striking event where a volcano erupts, sending red-hot lava shooting into the sky before cascading down the volcano’s sides. Despite its prominence in popular culture, the exact mechanisms behind volcanic fountaining have remained largely unknown, with some suggesting that rapid magma ascent might be the cause. To delve deeper into this phenomenon, the research team capitalized on the unique characteristics of the Fagradalsfjall eruption.

Unlike a sudden, explosive eruption, the eruption of Fagradalsfjall in 2021 showcased a series of fountains of varying heights. These fountains were relatively contained, enabling the scientists to approach the volcano closely and gain insights into the mechanics of fountaining.

To investigate the eruptions, the researchers employed a device that facilitated open-path Fourier transform infrared (OP-FTIR) spectroscopy. This allowed them to analyze the gases emitted by the volcano over multiple eruption cycles. By studying the chemical composition of the gases, they identified attributes that pointed towards an explanation for fountaining, rather than a simple explosive eruption. Subsequently, they developed a new theory.

According to this new theory, volcanoes such as Fagradalsfjall possess a shallow cavity beneath their caldera that becomes filled with magma. As the magma ascends into the cavity, gases within it create a foam layer at the top. The collapse of this foam layer generates the pressure that propels magma into the air, creating the fountain effect comparable to the release of gas from a shaken can of soda. The cyclic nature of fountaining is attributed to the repeated formation of a foam layer by gases within the cavity.

Although further research is necessary, the research team believes that their theory could help explain fountaining phenomena in various volcanoes worldwide. By unraveling the mysteries behind volcanic fountaining, scientists can enhance their understanding of volcanic eruptions and potentially improve predictions and mitigation efforts in the future.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it