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Rensselaer Research Review Spring 2007 * Feature Articles Awards & Grants Recent Patents Accolades
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A Magma Recharge

The 20-mile-long Long Valley Caldera was created when the supervolcano erupted. The geologists focused their efforts on Bishop Tuff, an expanse of rock that was built up as the hot ash cooled following the eruption. The researchers studied the distribution of titanium in quartz crystals in samples taken from Bishop Tuff.

A team from Rensselaer previously discovered that trace levels of titanium can be analyzed to determine the temperature at which the quartz crystallized. By monitoring titanium, Wark and his colleagues confirmed that the outer rims of the quartz had formed at a much hotter temperature than the crystal interiors.

The researchers concluded that after the interiors of the quartz crystals had grown, the magma system was “recharged” with an injection of fresh, hot melt. This caused the quartz to partly dissolve, before starting to crystallize again at a much higher temperature.

Analyses of titanium also revealed that the high-temperature rim-growth must have taken place within only 100 years of the massive volcano’s eruption. This suggests that the magma recharge so affected the physical properties of the magma chamber that it caused the supervolcano to erupt and blanket thousands of square miles with searing ash.

The research was funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Wark was assisted in his research by Wes Hildreth of the U.S. Geological Survey; Frank Spear, Rensselaer professor of earth and environmental sciences and department chair; Bruce Watson, Institute Professor at Rensselaer, and Daniele Cherniak, research associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rensselaer.

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A Supervolcano's Ancient Secrets Revealed
A piece of supervolcano and extracted quartz crystals
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