Lava dome

In volcanology, a lava dome is a circular mound-shaped protrusion resulting from the slow extrusion of viscous lava from a volcano. Dome-building eruptions are common, particularly in convergent plate boundary settings[1]. Around 6% of eruptions on earth are lava dome forming.[1] The geochemistry of lava domes can vary from basalt (e.g. Semeru, 1946) to rhyolite (e.g. Chaiten, 2010) although the majority are of intermediate composition (such as Santiaguito, dacite-andesite, present day)[2] The characteristic dome shape is attributed to high viscosity that prevents the lava from flowing very far. This high viscosity can be obtained in two ways: by high levels of silica in the magma, or by degassing of fluid magma. Since viscous basaltic and andesitic domes weather fast and easily break apart by further input of fluid lava, most of the preserved domes have high silica content and consist of rhyolite or dacite.

Existence of lava domes has been suggested for some domed structures on the Moon, Venus, and Mars,[1] e.g. the Martian surface in the western part of Arcadia Planitia and within Terra Sirenum.[3][4]

Dome dynamics

Lava domes evolve unpredictably, due to non-linear dynamics caused by crystallization and outgassing of the highly viscous lava in the dome's conduit.[5] Domes undergo various processes such as growth, collapse, solidification and erosion.

Lava domes grow by endogenic dome growth or exogenic dome growth. The former implies the enlargement of a lava dome due to the influx of magma into the dome interior, and the latter refers to discrete lobes of lava emplaced upon the surface of the dome.[2] It is the high viscosity of the lava that prevents it from flowing far from the vent from which it extrudes, creating a dome-like shape of sticky lava that then cools slowly in-situ. Spines and lava flows are common extrusive products of lava domes.[1] Domes may reach heights of several hundred meters, and can grow slowly and steadily for months (e.g. Unzen volcano), years (e.g. Soufrière Hills volcano), or even centuries (e.g. Mount Merapi volcano). The sides of these structures are composed of unstable rock debris. Due to the intermittent buildup of gas pressure, erupting domes can often experience episodes of explosive eruption over time. If part of a lava dome collapses and exposes pressurized magma, pyroclastic flows can be produced.[6] Other hazards associated with lava domes are the destruction of property from lava flows, forest fires, and lahars triggered from re-mobilization of loose ash and debris. Lava domes are one of the principal structural features of many stratovolcanoes worldwide. Lava domes are prone to unusually dangerous explosions since they can contain rhyolitic silica-rich lava.

Characteristics of lava dome eruptions include shallow, long-period and hybrid seismicity, which is attributed to excess fluid pressures in the contributing vent chamber. Other characteristics of lava domes include their hemispherical dome shape, cycles of dome growth over long periods, and sudden onsets of violent explosive activity.[7] The average rate of dome growth may be used as a rough indicator of magma supply, but it shows no systematic relationship to the timing or characteristics of lava dome explosions.[8]

Gravitational collapse of a lava dome can produce a block and ash flow.[9]


A cryptodome (from Greek κρυπτός, kryptos, "hidden, secret") is a dome-shaped structure created by accumulation of viscous magma at a shallow depth.[10] One example of a cryptodome was in the May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, where the explosive eruption began after a landslide caused the side of the volcano to fall, leading to explosive decompression of the subterranean cryptodome.[11]

Lava spine/Lava spire

A lava spine or lava spire is a growth that can form on the top of a lava dome. A lava spine can increase the instability of the underlying lava dome. A recent example of a lava spine is the spine formed in 1997 at the Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat.

Lava coulées

Coulées (or coulees) are lava domes that have experienced some flow away from their original position, thus resembling both lava domes and lava flows.[2]

The world's largest known dacite flow is the Chao dacite dome complex, a huge coulée flow-dome between two volcanoes in northern Chile. This flow is over 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) long, has obvious flow features like pressure ridges, and a flow front 400 metres (1,300 ft) tall (the dark scalloped line at lower left).[12] There is another prominent coulée flow on the flank of Llullaillaco volcano, in Argentina,[13] and other examples in the Andes.

Examples of lava domes

Lava domes
Name of lava domeCountryVolcanic areaCompositionLast eruption
or growth episode
Chaitén lava domeChileSouthern Volcanic ZoneRhyolite2009
Ciomadul lava domesRomaniaCarpathiansDacitePleistocene
Cordón Caulle lava domesChileSouthern Volcanic ZoneRhyodacite to RhyoliteHolocene
Galeras lava domeColombiaNorthern Volcanic ZoneUnknown2010
Katla lava domeIcelandIceland hotspotRhyolite1999 onwards[14]
Lassen PeakUnited StatesCascade Volcanic ArcDacite1917
Bridge River Vent lava domeCanadaCascade Volcanic ArcDaciteca. 300 BC
Mount Merapi lava domeIndonesiaSunda ArcUnknown2010
Nea KameniGreeceSouth Aegean Volcanic ArcDacite1950
Novarupta lava domeAlaska (United States)Aleutian ArcRhyolite1912
Nevados de Chillán lava domesChileSouthern Volcanic ZoneDacite1986
Puy de DômeFranceChaîne des PuysTrachyteca. 5760 BC
Santa María lava domeGuatemalaCentral America Volcanic ArcDacite2009
Sollipulli lava domeChileSouthern Volcanic ZoneAndesite to Dacite1240 ± 50 years
Soufrière Hills lava domeMontserratLesser AntillesAndesite2009
Mount St. Helens lava domesUnited StatesCascade Volcanic ArcDacite2008
Torfajökull lava domeIcelandIceland hotspotRhyolite1477
Tata Sabaya lava domesBoliviaAndesUnknown~ Holocene
Tate-iwaJapanJapan ArcDaciteMiocene[15]
Valles lava domesUnited StatesJemez MountainsRhyolite50,000-60,000 BP
Wizard Island lava domeUnited StatesCascade Volcanic ArcRhyodacite[16]2850 BC


  1. Calder, Eliza S.; Lavallée, Yan; Kendrick, Jackie E.; Bernstein, Marc (2015). The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. Elsevier. pp. 343–362. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-385938-9.00018-3. ISBN 9780123859389.
  2. Fink, Jonathan H., Anderson, Steven W. (2001), "Lava Domes and Coulees", in Sigursson, Haraldur (ed.), Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, Academic Press, pp. 307–319.
  3. Rampey, Michael L.; Milam, Keith A.; McSween, Harry Y.; Moersch, Jeffrey E.; Christensen, Philip R. (28 June 2007). "Identity and emplacement of domical structures in the western Arcadia Planitia, Mars". Journal of Geophysical Research. 112 (E6): E06011. Bibcode:2007JGRE..112.6011R. doi:10.1029/2006JE002750.
  4. Brož, Petr; Hauber, Ernst; Platz, Thomas; Balme, Matt (April 2015). "Evidence for Amazonian highly viscous lavas in the southern highlands on Mars". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 415: 200–212. Bibcode:2015E&PSL.415..200B. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.01.033.
  5. Melnik, O; Sparks, R. S. J. (4 November 1999), "Nonlinear dynamics of lava dome extrusion" (PDF), Nature, 402 (6757): 37–41, Bibcode:1999Natur.402...37M, doi:10.1038/46950
  6. Parfitt, E.A.; Wilson, L (2008), Fundamentals of Physical Volcanology, Massachusetts, USA: Blackwell Publishing, p. 256
  7. Sparks, R.S.J. (August 1997), "Causes and consequences of pressurisation in lava dome eruptions", Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 150 (3–4): 177–189, Bibcode:1997E&PSL.150..177S, doi:10.1016/S0012-821X(97)00109-X
  8. Newhall, C.G.; Melson., W.G. (September 1983), "Explosive activity associated with the growth of volcanic domes", Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 17 (1–4): 111–131, Bibcode:1983JVGR...17..111N, doi:10.1016/0377-0273(83)90064-1)
  9. Cole, Paul D.; Neri, Augusto; Baxter, Peter J. (2015). "Chapter 54 – Hazards from Pyroclastic Density Currents". In Sigurdsson, Haraldur (ed.). Encyclopedia of Volcanoes (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: Academic Press. pp. 943–956. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-385938-9.00037-7. ISBN 978-0-12-385938-9.
  10. "USGS: Volcano Hazards Program Glossary - Cryptodome". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  11. "USGS: Volcano Hazards Program CVO Mount St. Helens". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  12. Chao dacite dome complex at NASA Earth Observatory
  13. Coulées! by Erik Klemetti, an assistant professor of Geosciences at Denison University.
  14. Eyjafjallajökull and Katla: restless neighbours
  15. Goto, Yoshihiko; Tsuchiya, Nobutaka (July 2004). "Morphology and growth style of a Miocene submarine dacite lava dome at Atsumi, northeast Japan". Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. 134 (4): 255–275. Bibcode:2004JVGR..134..255G. doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2004.03.015.
  16. Map of Post-Caldera Volcanism and Crater Lake USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
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