Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

8 - Dynamics of Volcanic Eruptions


When a magma-filled fracture reaches the surface, a volcanic eruption occurs. In Chapters 5 and 7 we have discussed the conditions under which this may happen. Here, the focus is on the likely course of events once an eruption has started. Among the main questions facing scientists and civil authorities during a beginning eruption are: (1) What is the likely size or magnitude of the eruption? (2) What is its likely duration? (3) Is it going to be primarily effusive or explosive or both? All these questions ultimately relate to the hazards and associated risks posed by the particular volcano. For a more reliable assessment of the hazards associated with volcanoes, the frequencies and sizes of their eruptions need to be known and related to a general understanding of the dynamics of eruptions.

Amelung, F., Jonsson, S., Zebker, H., Segall, P., 2000. Widespread uplift and ‘trapdoor’ faulting on Galapagos volcanoes observed with radar interferometry. Nature, 407, 993996.
Anderson, E.M., 1936. The dynamics of formation of cone sheets, ring dykes and cauldron subsidences. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 56, 128163.
Bonadonna, C., Costa, A., 2013. Plume height, volume, and classification of explosive volcanic eruptions based on the Weibull function. Bulletin of Volcanology, 75, doi:10.1007/s00445-013-0742-1.
Bull, J. M., Minshull, T. A., Mitchell, N. C., et al., 2003. Fault and magmatic interaction within Iceland’s western rift over the last 9 kyr. Geophysical Journal International, 154, F1F8.
Cashman, K. V., Sparks, R. S. J., 2013. How volcanoes work: a 25 year perspective. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 125, 664690.
Clarke, A. B., Voight, B., Neri, A., Macedonio, G., 2002. Transient dynamics of vulcanian explosions and column collapse. Nature, 415, 897901.
Clauset, A., Chalizi, R. C., Newman, M. E. J., 2009. Power-law distributions in empirical data. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, 51, 661703.
Cummings, M. L., Evans, J. G., Ferns, M. L., Lees, K. R., 2000. Stratigraphic and structural evolution of the middle Miocene synvolcanic Oregon-Idaho graben. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 112, 668682.
Fagents, S. A., Gregg, T. K. P., Lopes, R. M. C. (eds.), 2013. Modeling Volcanic Processes: The Physics and Mathematics of Volcanism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fedotov, S. A., Chirkov, A. M., Gusev, N. A., Kovalev, G. N., Slezin, Yu. B., 1980. The large fissure eruption in the region of Plosky Tolbachik Volcano in Kamchatka, 1975–1976. Bulletin of Volcanology, 43, 4760.
Gonnermann, H. M., Manga, M., 2013. Dynamics of magma ascent in the volcanic conduit. In Fagents, S. A., Gregg, T. K. P., Lopes, R. M. C. (eds.), Modeling Volcanic Processes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 5584.
Gottsmann, J., Camacho, A. G., Marti, J., et al., 2008. Shallow structure beneath the Central Volcanic Complex of Tenerife from new gravity data: implications for its evolution and recent reactivation. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 168, 212230.
Gudmundsson, A. 1987. Tectonics of the Thingvellir fissure swarm, SW Iceland. Journal of Structural Geology, 9, 6169.
Gudmundsson, A., 2014. Energy release in great earthquakes and eruptions. Frontiers in Earth Science, 2, doi:10.3389/feart.2014.00010.
Gudmundsson, A., 2015. Collapse-driven large eruptions. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 304, 110.
Gudmundsson, A., 2016. The mechanics of large volcanic eruptions. Earth-Science Reviews, 163, 7293.
Gudmundsson, A., Mohajeri, N., 2013. Relations between the scaling exponents, entropies, and energies of fracture networks. Geological Society of France Bulletin, 184, 377387.
Gudmundsson, A., Oskarsson, N., Gronvold, K., et al., 1992. The 1991 eruption of Hekla, Iceland.Bulletin of Volcanology, 54, 238246.
Harris, A. J. L., 2013. Lava flows. In Fagents, S. A., Gregg, T. K. P., Lopes, R. M. C. (eds.), Modeling Volcanic Processes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 85106.
Hildreth, W., Fierstein, J., 2012. The Novarupta–Katmai eruption of 1912: largest eruption of the twentieth century – centennial perspectives. US Geological Survey Professional Paper, 1791. Denver, CO: US Geological Survey, pp. 1278.
James, M. R., Lane, S. J., Houghton, B. F., 2013. Unsteady explosive activity: strombolian eruptions. In Fagents, S. A., Gregg, T. K. P., Lopes, R. M. C. (eds.), Modeling Volcanic Processes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 107128.
Kilburn, C. J., 2000. Lava flows and flow fields. In Sigurdsson, H. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. New York, NY: Academic Press, pp. 291305.
Lamb, H., 1932. Hydrodynamics, 6th edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lipman, P. W. 1997. Subsidence of ash-flow calderas: relation to caldera size and magma chamber geometry. Bulletin of Volcanology, 59, 198218.
Lipman, P. W., Dungan, M. A., Bachmann, O., 1997. Comagmatic granophyric granite in the Fish Canyon Tuff, Colorado: implications for magma-chamber processes during a large ash-flow eruption. Geology, 25, 915918.
Machado, F., 1974. The search for magmatic reservoirs. In Civetta, L., Gasparini, P., Luongo, G., Rapolla, A. (eds.), Physical Volcanology. Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 255273.
Mason, B. G., Pyle, D. M., Oppenheimer, C., 2004. The size and frequency of the largest explosive eruptions on Earth. Bulletin of Volcanology, 66, 735748, doi:10.1007/s00445-004-0355-9.
Milne-Thompson, L. M., 1996. Theoretical Hydrodynamics, 5th edn. New York, NY: Dover.
Mohajeri, N., Gudmundsson, A., 2012. Entropies and scaling exponents of street and fracture networks. Entropy, 14, 800833.
Murase, T., McBirney, A. R., 1973. Properties of some common igneous rocks and their melts at high temperatures. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 84, 35633592.
Nakada, S., Uto, K., Sakuma, S., Eichelberger, J. C., Shimizu, H., 2005. Scientific results of conduit drilling in the Unzen Scientific Drilling Project (USDP). Scientific Drilling, 1, 1822, doi:10.2204/
Neal, C. A., Brantley, S. R., Antolik, J. L., et al., 2019. The 2018 rift eruption and summit collapse of Kilauea Volcano. Science, 363, 367374.
Neri, M., Acocella, V., Behncke, B., et al., 2011. Structural analysis of the eruptive fissures at Mount Etna (Italy). Annals of Geophysics, 54, 464479.
Newhall, C. G., Dzurisin, D., 1988. Historical unrest of large calderas of the world. US Geological Survey Bulletin, 1855, Reston, VA.
Newhall, C., Hendley, J. W., Stauffer, P. H., 1997. The Cataclysmic 1991 Eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines. US Geological Survey Fact Sheet-113–97.
Parfitt, L., Wilson, L., 2008. Fundamentals of Physical Volcanology. New York, NY: Wiley.
Pisarenko, V., Rodkin, M., 2010. Heavy-Tailed Distributions in Disaster Analysis. Berlin: Springer Verlag.
Poland, M. P., Takahashi, T. J., Landowski, C. M. (eds.), 2014. Characteristics of Hawaiian Volcanoes. US Geological Survey Professional Paper, 1801. Denver, CO: US Geological Survey.
Roche, O., Phillips, J. C., Kelfoun, K., 2013. Pyroclastic density currents. In Fagents, S. A., Gregg, T. K. P., Lopes, R. M. C. (eds.), Modeling Volcanic Processes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 203229.
Rosi, M., Papale, P., Lupi, L., Stoppato, M., 2003. Volcanoes. Buffalo (USA): Firefly Books.
Rossi, M. J., 1996. Morphology and mechanism of eruption of postglacial lava shields in Iceland. Bulletin of Volcanology, 57, 530540.
Self, S., Rampino, M. R., Newton, M. S., Wolff, J. A., 1984. Volcanological study of the great Tambora eruption of 1815. Geology, 12, 659663.
Sigurdsson, H., Houghton, B. F., McNutt, S. R., Rymer, H., Stix, J. (eds.), 2000. Encylopedia of Volcanoes. New York, NY: Academic Press.
Simkin, T., Fiske, R. S. (eds.), 1980. Krakatau, 1983: The Volcanic Eruption and Its Effects. Washington DC.: Smithsonian Books.
Simkin, T., Siebert, L., 2000. Earth’s volcanoes and eruptions: an overview. In Sigurdsson, H. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. New York, NY: Academic Press, pp. 249261.
Sinton, J., Gronvold, K., Saemundsson, K., 2005. Postglacial eruptive history of the western Volcanic Zone, Iceland. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 6, doi:10.1029/2005GC001021.
Sonnette, L., Angelier, J., Villemin, T., Bergerat, F., 2010. Faulting and fissuring in active oceanic rift: Surface expression, distribution and tectonic–volcanic interaction in the Thingvellir Fissure Swarm, Iceland. Journal of Structural Geology, 32, 407422.
Sparks, R. S. J., Bursik, M. I., Carey, S. N., et al., 1997. Volcanic Plumes. New York, NY: Wiley.
Stasiuk, M. V., Jaupart, C., Sparks, R. S. J., 1993. On the variation of flow rate in non-explosive lava eruptions. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 114, 505516.
Thordarson, T., Larsen, G., 2007. Volcanism in Iceland in historical time: Volcano types, eruption styles and eruptive history. Journal of Geodynamics, 43, 118152.
Thordarson, T., Self, S., 1993. The Laki (Skaftar Fires) and Grimsvotn eruptions in 1783–1785. Bulletin of Volcanology, 55, 233263.
Tryggvason, E., 1982. Recent ground deformation in continental and oceanic rift zones. American Geophysical Union Geodynamic Series, 8, 1729.
Wadge, G., 1981. The variation of magma discharge during basaltic eruptions. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 11, 139168.
White, F. M., 2005. Viscous Fluid Flow, 3rd edn. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Woods, A. W., Huppert, H. E., 2003. On magma chamber evolution during slow effusive eruptions. Journal of Geophysical Research, 108, 2403, doi:10.1029/2002JB002019.