Calderas and magma reservoirs

Katharine V. Cashman*, Guido Giordano, Katharine V Cashman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

183 Citations (Scopus)


Large caldera-forming eruptions have long been a focus of both petrological and volcanological studies; petrologists have used the eruptive products to probe conditions of magma storage (and thus processes that drive magma evolution), while volcanologists have used them to study the conditions under which large volumes of magma are transported to, and emplaced on, the Earth's surface. Traditionally, both groups have worked on the assumption that eruptible magma is stored within a single long-lived melt body. Over the past decade, however, advances in analytical techniques have provided new views of magma storage regions, many of which provide evidence of multiple melt lenses feeding a single eruption, and/or rapid pre-eruptive assembly of large volumes of melt. These new petrological views of magmatic systems have not yet been fully integrated into volcanological perspectives of caldera-forming eruptions. Here we explore the implications of complex magma reservoir configurations for eruption dynamics and caldera formation. We first examine mafic systems, where stacked-sill models have long been invoked but which rarely produce explosive eruptions. An exception is the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Iceland, where seismic and petrologic data show that multiple sills at different depths fed a multi-phase (explosive and effusive) eruption. Extension of this concept to larger mafic caldera-forming systems suggests a mechanism to explain many of their unusual features, including their protracted explosivity, spatially variable compositions and pronounced intra-eruptive pauses. We then review studies of more common intermediate and silicic caldera-forming systems to examine inferred conditions of magma storage, time scales of melt accumulation, eruption triggers, eruption dynamics and caldera collapse. By compiling data from large and small, and crystal-rich and crystal-poor, events, we compare eruptions that are well explained by simple evacuation of a zoned magma chamber (termed the Standard Model by Gualda and Ghiorso, 2013) to eruptions that are better explained by tapping multiple, rather than single, melt lenses stored within a largely crystalline mush (which we term complex magma reservoirs). We then discuss the implications of magma storage within complex, rather than simple, reservoirs for identifying magmatic systems with the potential to produce large eruptions, and for monitoring eruption progress under conditions where successive melt lenses may be tapped. We conclude that emerging views of complex magma reservoir configurations provide exciting opportunities for re-examining volcanological concepts of caldera-forming systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-45
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • Calderas
  • Explosive eruptions
  • Magma storage
  • Syn-eruptive melt extraction


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