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Publication - Professor Jon Blundy

    The 2011 eruption of Nabro volcano, Eritrea

    perspectives on magmatic processes from melt inclusions


    Donovan, A, Blundy, J, Oppenheimer, C & Buisman, I, 2018, ‘The 2011 eruption of Nabro volcano, Eritrea: perspectives on magmatic processes from melt inclusions’. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, vol 173.


    The 2011 eruption of Nabro volcano, Eritrea, produced one of the largest volcanic sulphur inputs to the atmosphere since the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, yet has received comparatively little scientific attention. Nabro forms part of an off-axis alignment, broadly perpendicular to the Afar Rift, and has a history of large-magnitude explosive silicic eruptions, as well as smaller more mafic ones. Here, we present and analyse extensive petrological data obtained from samples of trachybasaltic tephra erupted during the 2011 eruption to assess the pre-eruptive magma storage system and explain the large sulphur emission. We show that the eruption involved two texturally distinct batches of magma, one of which was more primitive and richer in sulphur than the other, which was higher in water (up to 2.5 wt%). Modelling of the degassing and crystallisation histories demonstrates that the more primitive magma rose rapidly from depth and experienced degassing crystallisation, while the other experienced isobaric cooling in the crust at around 5 km depth. Interaction between the two batches occurred shortly before the eruption. The eruption itself was likely triggered by recharge-induced destabilisation of vertically extensive mush zone under the volcano. This could potentially account for the large volume of sulphur released. Some of the melt inclusions are volatile undersaturated, and suggest that the original water content of the magma was around 1.3 wt%, which is relatively high for an intraplate setting, but consistent with seismic studies of the Afar plume. This eruption was smaller than some geological eruptions at Nabro, but provides important insights into the plumbing systems and dynamics of off-axis volcanoes in Afar.

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