SO2 emissions from the Timanfaya eruption (1730–36 CE), Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Sharma, Kirti; Blake, Stephen and Self, Stephen (2024). SO2 emissions from the Timanfaya eruption (1730–36 CE), Lanzarote, Canary Islands. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 445, article no. 107984.



The 1730–36 CE eruption of Lanzarote (Canary Islands) is the third largest basaltic fissure eruption known to have occurred in the last 1000 years, after the Icelandic events of Laki (1783–84 CE) and Eldgja (939 CE). Approximately 5.2 km3, (1.1 × 1012 kg) of alkalic basalt (sensu lato) lava and pyroclastic rocks were emplaced on land, with a further unknown amount entering the sea, The activity occurred in five eruptive phases from vents situated along a 15-km long, E-W trending fissure. Each phase began with Strombolian fire fountain activity, building large spatter and scoria cones, accompanied and followed by effusive ‘a'ā and pāhoehoe lava flow emplacement. Phases I and II were the most explosive and occurred between 1st September 1730 and June 1731. Samples of scoria and lava surfaces were collected from all phases and the major elements, S, Cl and F contents of matrix glasses and glass inclusions in olivine (the dominant phenocryst phase) were analysed by electron microprobe. Water contents of selected glasses were measured on polished wafers by Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy. Glass compositions mimic the range of published whole rock compositions, with Phase I being predominantly basanitic and later phases alkali basalt. Whole rock variations in incompatible trace element ratios are mimicked by ratios involving TiO2, K2O and P2O5 in glass. Matrix and glass inclusion analyses in a given sample are similar, indicating that the inclusions formed synchronously with eruption and that most phenocryst crystallization occurred during earlier evolution of the magmas. Matrix glasses in scoria and surface lava samples have 80–300ppmS and 260–750ppm H2O, whereas glass inclusions in olivine have 420–2650ppmS and 0.1 to 0.5wt% H2O. Glass inclusions with low sulfur contents were trapped during degassing-induced crystallization as the magma approached the surface. The inclusions with the highest sulfur contents, at given P2O5/TiO2 ratio, are inferred to represent un-degassed melt, and their S content and S/K2O ratios correlate very strongly with incompatible element concentrations and P2O5/TiO2 ratios. The original S contents of 131 matrix glasses were calculated from their P2O5/TiO2 ratios and compared to their measured degassed S contents. The mass of S released per unit mass of magma ranged from about 0.25% in Phase I Episode 1 to 0.17% in later phases, with propagated uncertainties of about 2 to 5%. About 40 Mt. of SO2 was released overall, with ca. 25 Mt. being released during the first 5 months of the eruption (Phase I). Estimates of average magma discharge rates imply that plumes remained in the troposphere, with the possible exception of those associated with extreme peak discharge rates during Phase I Episode 1 which may have just reached the upper troposphere – lower stratosphere. Lower eruption rates during the later phases would have confined SO2 emissions to the troposphere. Although acid and sulfate peaks dated to 1730 and 1731 have been reported from some Greenland ice cores, the evidence for stratospheric impact, such as cooling at the Earth's surface and increased stratospheric turbidity, is minimal.

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