Project Information
Magma Sources, Residence and Pathways of Mount Erebus Phonolitic Volcano, Antarctica, from Magnetotelluric Resistivity Structure
Start Date:
End Date:
General Description:
This project is intended to reveal the magma source regions, staging areas, and eruptive pathways within the active volcano Mount Erebus. This volcano is an end-member type known as phonolitic, which refers to the lava composition, and is almost purely carbon-dioxide-bearing and occurs in continental rift settings. It is in contrast to the better known water-bearing volcanoes which occur at plate boundary settings (such as Mount St Helens or Mount Fuji). Phonolitic volcanic eruptions elsewhere such as Tamboro or Vesuvius have caused more than 50,000 eruption related fatalities. Phonolites are also associated with rare earth element deposits, giving them economic interest. To illuminate the inner workings of Mount Erebus, we will cover the volcano with a dense network of geophysical probes based on magnetotelluric (MT) measurements. MT makes use of naturally occurring electromagnetic (EM) waves generated mainly by the sun as sources to provide images of the electrical conductivity structure of the Earth's interior. Conductivity is sensitive to the presence of fluids and melts in the Earth and so is well suited to understanding volcanic processes. The project is a cooperative effort between scientists from the United States, New Zealand, Japan and Canada. It implements new technology developed by the lead investigator and associates that allows such measurements to be taken on snow-covered terrains. This has applicability for frozen environments generally, such as resource exploration in the Arctic. The project supports a new post-doctoral researcher, and leverages imaging and measurement methods developed through support by other agencies and interfaced with commercial platforms.

Technical Description:
The investigators propose to test magmatic evolution models for Mount Erebus volcano, Antarctica, using the magnetotelluric (MT) method. The phonolite lava flow compositions on Mount Erebus are uncommon, but provide a window into the range of upper mantle source compositions and melt differentiation paths. Explosive phonolite eruptions have been known worldwide for devastating eruptions such as Tambora and Vesuvius, and commonly host rare earth element deposits. In the MT method, temporal variations in the Earth's natural electromagnetic (EM) field are used as source fields to probe the electrical resistivity structure in the depth range of 1 to 100 kilometers. This effort will consist of approximately 100 MT sites, with some concentration in the summit area. Field acquisition will take place over two field seasons. The main goals are to 1) confirm the existence and the geometry of the uppermost magma chamber thought to reside at 5-10 kilometer depths; 2) attempt to identify, in the deeper resistivity structure, the magma staging area near the crust-mantle boundary; 3) image the steep, crustal-scale, near-vertical conduit carrying magma from the mantle; 4) infer the physical and chemical state from geophysical properties of a CO2-dominated mafic shield volcano; and 5) constrain the relationships between structural and magmatic/ hydrothermal activity related to the Terror Rift. Tomographic imaging of the interior resistivity will be performed using a new inversion platform developed at Utah, based on the deformable edge finite element method, that is the best available for accommodating the steep topography of the study area. The project is an international cooperation between University of Utah, GNS Science Wellington New Zealand (G. Hill, Co-I), and Tokyo Institute of Technology Japan (Y. Ogawa, Co-I), plus participation by University of Alberta (M. Unsworth) and Missouri State University (K. Mickus). Instrument deployments will be made exclusively by helicopter. The project implements new technology that allows MT measurements to be taken on snow-covered terrains. The project supports a new post-doctoral researcher, and leverages imaging and measurement methods developed through support by other agencies and interfaced with commercial platforms.
Person Role
Wannamaker, Philip Investigator and contact
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 1443522
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
Repository Title (link) Format(s) Status
USAP-DC Erebus volcano/Ross Island Magnetotelluric (MT) data None exists

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