Extensive, water-rich magma reservoir beneath southern Montserrat

M. Edmonds, Simon C Kohn, E.H. Hauri, Madeleine C S Humphreys, M. Cassidy

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

38 Citations (Scopus)


South Soufriere Hills and Soufriere Hills volcanoes are two km apart at the southern end of the island of Montserrat, West Indies. Their magmas are distinct geochemically, despite these volcanoes having been active contemporaneously at 131-129 ka. We use the water content of pyroxenes and melt inclusion data to reconstruct the bulk water contents of magmas and their depth of storage prior to eruption. Pyroxenes contain up to 281 ppm H2O, with significant variability between crystals and from core to rim in individual crystals. The Al content of the enstatites from Soufriere Hills Volcano (SHV) is used to constrain melt-pyroxene partitioning for H2O. The SHV enstatite cores record melt water contents of 6-9 wt%. Pyroxene and melt inclusion water concentration pairs from South Soufriere Hills basalts independently constrain pyroxene-melt partitioning of water and produces a comparable range in melt water concentrations. Melt inclusions recorded in plagioclase and in pyroxene contain up to 6.3 wt% H2O. When combined with realistic melt CO2 contents, the depth of magma storage for both volcanoes ranges from 5 to 16 km. The data are consistent with a vertically protracted crystal mush in the upper crust beneath the southern part of Montserrat which contains heterogeneous bodies of eruptible magma. The high water contents of the magmas suggest that they contain a high proportion of exsolved fluids, which has implications for the rheology of the mush and timescales for mush reorganisation prior to eruption. A depletion in water in the outer 50-100 microns of a subset of pyroxenes from pumices from a Vulcanian explosion at Soufriere Hills in 2003 is consistent with diffusive loss of hydrogen during magma ascent over 5-13 hours. These timescales are similar to the mean time periods between explosions in 1997 and in 2003, raising the possibility that the driving force for this repetitive explosive behaviour lies not in the shallow system, but in the deeper parts of a vertically protracted crustal magma storage system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-233
Number of pages18
Early online date7 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Pyroxenes
  • water
  • mush
  • andesite
  • melt inclusions
  • SIMS


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