Wet and wild: There’s lots of water in the world’s most explosive volcano

Shiveluch volcano has had more than 40 violent eruptions over the last 10,000 years. The last gigantic blast occurred in 1964, creating a new crater and covering an area of nearly 100 square kilometers with pyroclastic flows. But Shiveluch is actually currently erupting, as it has been for over 20 years.
Credit: Michael Krawczynski, Washington University in St. Louis

Shiveluch volcano has had more than 40 violent eruptions over the last 10,000 years. The last gigantic blast occurred in 1964, creating a new crater and covering an area of nearly 100 square kilometers with pyroclastic flows. But Shiveluch is actually currently erupting, as it has been for over 20 years. Credit: Michael Krawczynski, Washington University in St. Louis

Kamchatka’s Shiveluch  has had more than 40 violent eruptions over the last 10,000 years. The last gigantic blast occurred in 1964, creating a new crater and covering an area of nearly 100 square kilometers with pyroclastic flows. But Shiveluch is actually currently erupting, as it has been for over 20 years. So why would anyone risk venturing too close?

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, including Michael Krawczynski, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences and graduate student Andrea Goltz, brave the  on Kamchatka because understanding what makes Shiveluch tick could help scientists understand the  and gain insights into the plumbing systems of other volcanoes.

In a recent study published in the journal Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, researchers from the Krawczynski lab looked at small nodules of primitive magma that were erupted and preserved amid other materials.

“The minerals in these nodules retain the signatures of what was happening early in the magma’s evolution, deep in Earth’s crust,” said Goltz, the lead author of the paper.

The researchers found that the conditions inside Shiveluch include roughly 10%-14%  by weight (wt%). Most volcanoes have less than 1% water. For subduction zone volcanoes, the average is usually 4%, rarely exceeding 8 wt%, which is considered superhydrous.

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