238U–230Th–226Ra–210Pb–210Po disequilibria constraints on magma generation, ascent, and degassing during the ongoing eruption of Kīlauea

Journal of Petrology
By: , and 



The timescales of magma genesis, ascent, storage and degassing at Kīlauea volcano, Hawai‘i are addressed by measuring 238U-series radionuclide abundances in lava and tephra erupted between 1982 and 2008. Most analyzed samples represent lavas erupted by steady effusion from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō and Kūpahianaha from 1983 to 2008. Also included are samples erupted at the summit in April 1982 and March 2008, along the East Rift Zone at the onset of the ongoing eruption in January 1983, and during vent shifting episodes 54 and 56, at Nāpau crater in January 1997, and Kane Nui O Hamo in June 2007. In general, samples have small (∼4%) excesses of (230Th) over (238U) and ∼3 to ∼17% excesses of (226Ra) over (230Th), consistent with melting of a garnet peridotite source at melting rates between 1 × 10–3 and 5 × 10–3 kg m–3 a–1, and melting region porosity between ∼2 and ∼10%, in agreement with previous studies of the ongoing eruption and historical eruptions. A small subset of samples has near-equilibrium (230Th/238U) values, and thus were generated at higher melting rates. Based on U–Th–Ra disequilibria and Th isotopic data from this and earlier studies, melting processes and sources have been relatively stable over at least the past two centuries or more, including during the ongoing unusually long (>30 years) and voluminous (4 km3) eruption. Lavas recently erupted from the East Rift Zone have average initial (210Pb/226Ra) values of 0·80 ± 0·11 (1σ), which we interpret to be the result of partitioning of 222Rn into a persistently generated CO2-rich gas phase over a minimum of 8 years. This (210Pb) deficit implies an average magma ascent rate of ≤3·7 km a–1 from ∼30 km depth to the surface. Spatter and lava associated with vent-opening episodes erupt with variable (210Pb) deficits ranging from 0·7 to near-equilibrium values in some samples. The samples with near-equilibrium (210Pb/226Ra) are typically more differentiated, suggesting decadal timescales of magma storage in shallow conduits or reservoirs that were not degassing. Lava and spatter samples erupted in the East Rift Zone and at the summit had (210Po) ∼0 at the time of eruption, which results from efficient partitioning of Po into the CO2- and SO2-rich gas phases during and prior to eruption. Summit ash and Pele’s hair samples from 2008 differ from lava and lapilli samples in that they have elevated initial (210Po), (210Pb/226Ra), and Pb concentrations because of Po condensation on tephra particles, and incorporation of fumarolic Po and Pb into erupted tephra fragments during quenching.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title 238U–230Th–226Ra–210Pb–210Po disequilibria constraints on magma generation, ascent, and degassing during the ongoing eruption of Kīlauea
Series title Journal of Petrology
DOI 10.1093/petrology/egx051
Volume 58
Issue 6
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Oxford University Press
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 28 p.
First page 1199
Last page 1226
Country United States
State Hawaii
Other Geospatial Kīlauea Volcano