Big Ideas in volcanology:


1. How is the Big Idea supported by science?

“The alternative theory of atmospheric formation is that gases were somehow trapped within the planets while they were forming, and then released, later on, through volcanic activity.”

“Primordial heat dissipated to space [...] during cooling. [...] Accumulation of new atmosphere due to volcanic out gassing.”

Poas crater and lake, January 2011

© Riccardo Tortini 2011


2. What are the weaknesses of it?

“Matching chemical signatures indicate that Kuiper comets brought water to Earth.”

3. What are the key basic observations?

4. What are the implications of the idea?

5. What are the misconceptions associated with it?

Ice cap thaw may awaken Icelandic volcanoes

“A thaw of Icelandic’s ice caps in coming decades caused by climate change may trigger more volcanic eruptions by removing a vast weight and freeing magma from deep below ground [...].”

Reply to: “Ice cap thaw may awaken Icelandic volcanoes”

“[...] the loss of all ice in Iceland would make the volcanoes less destructive.”

Stromboli “Sciara del Fuoco”, September 2011

© Riccardo Tortini 2011


6. What science is needed to clarify this?

7. What are the volcanologists working on this now?


Simon Carn (Michigan Technological University)                                                        Francis Albarède (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon)

8. What are some key papers to read?

Rubey, W.W. (1951), “Geologic History of Sea Water”. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 62, 1111-1148.

Holland, H.D. (1965), “The History of Ocean Water and it’s Effect on the Chemistry of the Atmosphere”. N.A.S. Symposium on the Evolution of the Earth's Atmosphere, 53(6), 1173-1183.

Turekian, K.K. (2001), “Origin of the Oceans”. In: J.H. Steele, S.A. Thorpe & C.K. Turekian (eds.), Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, 2055-2058.

Milkov, A.V. (2005), “Global Distribution of Mud Volcanoes and their Significance in Petroleum Exploration as a Source of Methane in the Atmosphere and Hydrosphere and as a Geohazard”. In: G. Martinelli and B. Panahi (eds.), Mud Volcanoes, Geodynamics and Seismicity, 29–34.

Pyle, D.M. & Mather, T.A. (2009), “Halogens in Igneous Processes and their Fluxes to the Atmosphere and Oceans from Volcanic Activity: a review”. Chemical Geology, 263, 110-121.

9. What are the sciences areas outside of volcanology that should help guide this work?

Arenal volcano, January 2011

© Riccardo Tortini 2011


Vulcano crater, September 2008

© Riccardo Tortini 2008


Earth’s hydrosphere comes from Volcanic Degassing