Scientists are closing in on cause of volcanic super-eruptions


Volcanic activity can range from gaseous emissions with nonexplosive lava all the way to what is known as super-eruptions. Super-eruptions are massive and explosive and have widespread and sometimes global implications. They can also pose risks to the environment. A team of researchers studied deposits from an ancient super-eruption in the Central Andes to provide new information about what happens just before the eruption takes place. The team recently published its findings in Nature. Marissa Tremblay, assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences in Purdue University’s College of Science, was part of the team and used geochronology to help determine the outcomes. 

Purdue professor’s expertise

Marissa Tremblay is a noble gas geochemist interested in understanding the physical and chemical processes that shape the surface of the Earth and other planetary bodies. Her research centers on the development and application of geochemical techniques involving noble gases.

Journal name

Nature (Link to Article:


There was no funding to Purdue associated with this research.

Brief summary of methods

The team used careful measurements of argon gas inside crystals from deposits of ancient super-eruptions in the Central Andes to provide new information about what happens just before a super-eruption takes place. They were able to use this new data and models to say how fast and in what ways the subsurface plumbing system of a large volcano changes that can lead to a super-eruption.  This discovery may lead to better predictability of future super-eruptions.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.