Volcanic eruptions are serious geological hazards; the aftermath of the explosive eruptions produced at high-silica volcanic systems often results in long-term threats to climate, travel, farming, and human life. To construct models for eruption forecasting, the timescales of events leading up to eruption must be accurately quantified. In the field of igneous petrology, the timing of these events (e.g. periods of magma formation, duration of recharge events) and their influence on eruptive timescales are still poorly constrained.
In this dissertation, I discuss how the new tools and methods I have developed are helping to improve our understanding of these magmatic events. I have developed a method to calculate more accurate timescales for these events from the diffusive relaxation of chemical zoning in individual mineral crystals (i.e., diffusion chronometry), and I use this technique to compare the times recorded by different minerals from the same Yellowstone lava flow, the Scaup Lake rhyolite.
I have also derived a new geothermometer to calculate magma temperature from the compositions of the mineral clinopyroxene and the surrounding liquid. This empirically-derived geothermometer is calibrated for the high FeOtot (Mg# = 56) and low Al2O3 (0.53–0.73 wt%) clinopyroxene found in the Scaup Lake rhyolite and other high-silica igneous systems. A determination of accurate mineral temperatures is crucial to calculate magmatic heat budgets and to use methods such as diffusion chronometry. Together, these tools allow me to paint a more accurate picture of the conditions and tempo of events inside a magma body in the millennia to months leading up to eruption.
Additionally, I conducted petrological experiments to determine the composition of hypothetical exoplanet partial mantle melts, which could become these planets’ new crust, and therefore new surface. Understanding the composition of an exoplanet’s crust is the first step to understanding chemical weathering, surface-atmosphere chemical interactions, the volcanic contribution to any atmosphere present, and biological processes, as life depends on these surfaces for nutrients. The data I have produced can be used to predict differences in crust compositions of exoplanets with similar bulk compositions to those explored herein, as well as to calibrate future exoplanet petrologic models.