Imaging magma storage beneath the Canary Islands

This project is available from the academic year 2025/26 onwards.

Theme: Solid Earth Dynamics

Primary Supervisor:

James Hammond

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, BBK

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Secondary Supervisor:

Chiara Maria Petrone

Earth Sciences Department, NHM

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Project Description:

The Canary Islands, a collection of intraplate shield volcanoes in the Atlantic Ocean, are an exemplary example of volcanism of mantle plume origin. Petrology has shown that a complex magmatic systems underlie the volcanoes, with separate regions of magma storage in the mantle and crust. The recent eruptions of La Palma in 2021 and El Hierro in 2011 allow us to look at these systems in more detail. Beneath La Palma, seismicity was seen below the crust, consistent with a deep mantle reservoir where magma is sourced. The magma moved aseismically, stagnating at mid crustal depths (7-15 km) before moving to the surface. A similar pattern of magmatic interchange between mantle and crustal regions was seen during the El Hierro eruption. This project aims to use these datasets to image the magmatic systems and look for long term temporal variations beneath these active volcanoes. Multiple years of seismic data across all the Canary Islands are available to the project from the Instituto Geografico Nacional network (IGN). Using a variety of methods (tomography, splitting, receiver functions) and sources, including local seismicity from volcanoes undergoing eruption and unrest (La Palma, El Hierro and to a smaller degree, Tenerife) and teleseismic data, a model of the whole magmatic system will be developed from the shallow crust to the deeper mantle. Temporal variations in the data can be compared with published petrological estimates, including those from diffusion chronometry that can highlight magma exchanges, helping to constrain magma transfer on the active volcanoes.

Policy Impact of Research:

The eruption of La Palma displaced around 7000 people, covering over 1000 hectares and resulting in over 800 million Euros of damage. Understanding and identifying long term changes in the magmatic system presents opportunities to better prepare for future eruptions.


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