Reconciling petrologic magma ascent speedometers for the June 12th, 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines

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Megan Harris
Behnaz Hosseini
Madison Myers
Logan Bouley


We investigate whether decompression rates derived from three often-disparate petrologic techniques (microlites, bubbles, and melt embayments) can be reconciled or integrated for a more complete understanding of magma ascent in the conduit. We focus on the well-studied and -documented earliest Plinian eruptions (June 12, 1991) of Mount Pinatubo. Using a newly developed two-stage decompression-diffusion model, volatile profiles in quartz-hosted embayments reveal an initial stage of decompression nearly two orders of magnitude slower than final rates. In applying time-integrated models of microlite and bubble nucleation and growth, initial decompression rates from embayments are supported by microlite modeling results, whereas final rates are in close agreement with bubble number densities. This consistency and continuity between speedometers supports the sensitivity of different petrologic recorders to specific regions of the conduit system and highlights the fidelity of embayments as recorders of decompression throughout the entire conduit. Ascent timescales derived from Pinatubo embayments range from hours to days, coinciding with the visual onset of lava effusion leading to explosive activity.


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Harris, M., Hosseini, B., Myers, M. and Bouley, L. (2024) “Reconciling petrologic magma ascent speedometers for the June 12th, 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines”, Volcanica, 7(1), pp. 117–133. doi: 10.30909/vol.07.01.117133.
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Received 2023-02-25
Accepted 2023-12-19
Published 2024-03-01
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