Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Magma Discovered In Its 'Natural Habitat' For First Time

Date:
December 18, 2008
Source:
Johns Hopkins University
Summary:
A crew drilling on the Big Island of Hawaii has discovered magma, the molten rock material -- never before found in its natural habitat underground -- that is the central ingredient in the evolution of planets and the lifeblood of all volcanoes.

A volcanic eruption of molten lava at night as it flows into the ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Credit: iStockphoto/Rick Rhay

A crew drilling on the Big Island of Hawaii has discovered magma, the molten rock material — never before found in its natural habitat underground — that is the central ingredient in the evolution of planets and the lifeblood of all volcanoes.

The chance discovery far beneath the Earth's surface gives scientists an unprecedented opportunity to understand the important substance.

"As scientists, we've hypothesized about the nature and behavior of magma in literally countless studies, but before now the real thing has never been found or been physically investigated in its natural habitat within the earth," said Bruce Marsh, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at The Johns Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

Magma is the subterranean form of what, when it is ejected from the earth in volcanoes and cools, is known as lava. Underground, it reaches temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, or more than 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Magma resides inside the earth and lava is its equivalent on the surface. But once magma erupts, it begins cooling unusually quickly and it loses any gases that it may contain, so it really is a different animal," Marsh said. "We've never seen, until now, the real animal in its natural habitat. And it's not going anywhere: it's caged, so to speak."

Earth scientists are excited about the discovery not only because it's a first, but also because the magma is a highly unusual type called "dacite." Evidence of cooled-off dacite magma is not common in the geology of Hawaii; it is believed to be made by, in effect, distilling basalt, the material which makes up the floor of the ocean.

Marsh is collaborating on the discovery with William Teplow, a consultant to Nevada-based Ormat Technologies Inc., the company which discovered the magma during drilling operations at its Puna Geothermal Venture power plant.

"This gives scientists an extraordinary chance to examine magma in its natural habitat, which is very, very exciting," he said.

Teplow and Marsh will announce the discovery on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at the 2008 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Marsh, nicknamed the "Magma PI," has spent his career investigating the processes by which magma is forced from the bowels of the planet to the surface and creates the geologic features — continents, mountains, valleys — among which we live. He does much of his field work in an area quite different from Hawaii: Antarctica. In 2005, a glacial valley there, in the Olympus Range just south of Mount Hercules, was named "Marsh Cirque" in his honor.

Workers at Ormat, one of the world's largest geothermal producers, discovered the magma in October 2005 when they hit a chamber of the magma about a mile and a half down while drilling an injection well.The substance quickly rose about 20 feet up into the drill hole before becoming glasslike as it cooled. Ormat workers redrilled the area several times, with the same result.

It quickly became apparent that the magma was the highly unusual dacite, Marsh said.

"No dacite lava or rocks have ever been found on the Big Island of Hawaii, though some have hypothesized that basalt can transform into dacite through a form of distillation through crystallization," he said.

After discovering the magma, Ormat installed a permanent seismic and ground monitoring network to provide early warning of any impending volcanic activity for the power plant and surrounding community.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins University. "Magma Discovered In Its 'Natural Habitat' For First Time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217230110.htm>.
Johns Hopkins University. (2008, December 18). Magma Discovered In Its 'Natural Habitat' For First Time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217230110.htm
Johns Hopkins University. "Magma Discovered In Its 'Natural Habitat' For First Time." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217230110.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) — A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Phoenix Thunderstorm Creates Giant Wall of Dust

Phoenix Thunderstorm Creates Giant Wall of Dust

Reuters - US Online Video (July 26, 2014) — A giant wall of dust slowly moves north over the Phoenix area after a summer monsoon thunderstorm. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare Lemur Among Baby Animals Debuted at Cleveland Zoo

Rare Lemur Among Baby Animals Debuted at Cleveland Zoo

Reuters - US Online Video (July 26, 2014) — A rare baby Lemur is among several baby animals getting their public debut at a Cleveland zoo. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins