Inside the volcano: Three-dimensional magmatic architecture of a buried shield volcano

Faye Walker* (Corresponding Author), Nick Schofield, John Millett, Dave Jolley, Simon P. Holford, Sverre Planke, Dougal A Jerram, Reidun Myklebust

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The nature and growth of magmatic plumbing systems is of fundamental importance to igneous geology. Traditionally magma chambers have been viewed as rapidly-emplaced bodies of molten rock or partially-crystallised “magma mush” connected to the surface by a narrow cylindrical conduit (referred to as the “balloon-and-straw” model). Recent data suggest, however, that magma chambers beneath volcanoes are formed incrementally through amalgamation of smaller intrusions. Here we present the first high-resolution 3D reconstruction of an ancient volcanic plumbing system as a large laccolithic complex. By integrating seismic reflection and gravity data we show that the ~200 km3 laccolith appears to have formed through partial amalgamation of smaller intrusions. The complex appears to have fed both surface volcanism and an extensive sill network beneath the volcanic edifice. Numerous sills are imaged within the volcanic conduit indicating that magma stalled at various levels during its ascent. Our results reveal for the first time the entire multi-component plumbing system within a large ancient shield volcano.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-247
Number of pages5
Issue number3
Early online date12 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding from NERC (Oil and Gas CDT) and BGS is gratefully acknowledged. DAJ and SP are part-funded by the Research Council of Norway Centre of Excellence funding scheme (project No. 223272). TGS is thanked for providing seismic data to the University of Aberdeen. Seismic interpretation was undertaken using Schlumberger Petrel software and gravity modelling using ARK CLS XField software. Thanks go to Steffi Burchardt, Eric Horsman and Christian Eide for constructive reviews which greatly improved the manuscript.


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