Experimental constraints on pre-eruptive water contents and changing magma storage prior to explosive eruptions of Mount St Helens volcano

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Compositionally diverse dacitic magmas have erupted from Mount St Helens over the last 4000 years. Phase assemblages and their compositions in these dacites provide information about the composition of the pre-eruptive melt, the phases in equilibrium with that melt and the magmatic temperature. From this information pre-eruptive pressures and water fugacities of many of the dacites have been inferred. This was done by conducting hydrothermal experiments at 850°C and a range of pressures and water fugacities and combining the results with those from experiments at temperatures of 780 and 920°C, to cover the likely range in equilibration conditions of the dacites. Natural phase assemblages and compositions were compared with the experimental results to infer the most likely conditions for the magmas prior to eruption. Water contents disolved in the melts of the dacites were then estimated from the inferred conditions. Water contents in the dacites have varied greatly, from 3.7 to 6.5 wt.%, in the last 4000 years. Between 4000 and about 3000 years ago the dacites tended to be water saturated and contained 5.5 to 6.5 wt.% water. Since then, however, the dacites have been significantly water-undersaturated and contained less than 5.0 wt.% water. These dacites have tended to be hotter and more mafic, and andesitic and basaltic magmas have erupted. These changes can be explained by variable amounts of mixing between felsic dacite and basalt, to produce hotter, drier and more mafic dacites and andesites. The magma storage region of the dacitic magmas has also varied significantly during the 4000 years, with shifts to shallower levels in the crust occurring within very short time periods, possibly even two years. These shifts may be related to fracturing of overlying roof rock as a result of magma with-drawal during larger volume eruptions. © 1995 Springer-Verlag.

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Bulletin of Volcanology