Volcanic conduit controls on effusive-explosive transitions and the 2010 eruption of Merapi Volcano (Indonesia)

Brett B. Carr, Amanda B. Clarke, Mattia de' Michieli Vitturi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Individual volcanoes can produce both effusive and explosive eruptions. A transition between these two eruption styles dramatically changes the hazards and can occur either between distinct eruption events or within one eruption episode. The causes of these transitions are difficult to determine due to the number of system parameters that can influence whether or not magma fragments in a runaway process. We apply a numerical model of magma ascent in a volcanic conduit to isolate and test the effects of key parameters related to magma rheology and system geometry. We find that for a given volcanic system, parameters that control magma viscosity, such as initial water mass fraction, initial crystal volume fraction, and temperature, have the greatest influence on whether or not magma fragments during ascent and erupts explosively. We also define a ‘critical condition’ for the full set of initial parameters under which a transition in eruption style, from effusive to explosive or the reverse, is more likely to occur. Under these conditions, small heterogeneities in the water or crystal content of the magma, or small perturbations to the conduit pressure gradient due to magma chamber overpressure or dome growth or collapse, can disrupt the magmatic conditions and cause a transition in eruption style. The 2010 VEI 4 eruption of Merapi Volcano included both effusive and explosive phases and was larger by an order of magnitude than its eruptions during the previous century. We constrain our model for the Merapi system using published literature values and show that between the previous eruption in 2006 and the 2010 eruption, the shallow magmatic system at Merapi reached critical conditions due to the ascent from depth of a large, hotter, more volatile-rich magma. Under these critical conditions and according to our model results, small changes in the volatile content of the magma, small dome collapses, subtle changes in degassing rate, or the addition of CO2 to the magma through decarbonation of the bedrock, are all feasible mechanisms for triggering rapid transitions between effusive and explosive activity during the 2010 eruption period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106767
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
StatePublished - Feb 15 2020


  • Eruption rate
  • Explosive eruptions
  • Explosive-effusive transitions
  • Fragmentation
  • Lava domes
  • Merapi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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