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A large magmatic sill complex beneath the Toba caldera

Science  31 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6209, pp. 617-619
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258582

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Imaging before an unimaginable eruption

Volcanic super-eruptions eject thousands of times the volume of the largest documented eruptions over human history. Several “supervolcanoes” capable of this type of unimaginable devastation dot the surface of Earth today. Jaxybulatov et al. use seismic background noise to estimate the size and maturity of one of the world's largest volcanic reservoirs, the Toba caldera in northern Sumatra. Magma storage under the caldera occurs slowly over time, in the form of horizontal layers of magma injected into the crust. These magmatic sills are documented to 20 kilometers below the surface, but more sills could exist even deeper. The characterization of magma storage in large volcanic systems may help us to prepare for future volcanic super-eruptions.

Science, this issue p. 617

Abstract

An understanding of the formation of large magmatic reservoirs is a key issue for the evaluation of possible strong volcanic eruptions in the future. We estimated the size and level of maturity of one of the largest volcanic reservoirs, based on radial seismic anisotropy. We used ambient-noise seismic tomography below the Toba caldera (in northern Sumatra) to observe the anisotropy that we interpret as the expression of a fine-scale layering caused by the presence of many partially molten sills in the crust below 7 kilometers. This result demonstrates that the magmatic reservoirs of present (non-eroded) supervolcanoes can be formed as large sill complexes and supports the concept of the long-term incremental evolution of magma bodies that lead to the largest volcanic eruptions.

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