Petrological architecture of a magmatic shear zone: A multidisciplinary investigation of strain localisation during magma ascent at Unzen volcano, Japan

Paul A. Wallace, Jackie E. Kendrick, Takahiro Miwa, James D. Ashworth, Rebecca Coats, James E.P. Utley, Sarah Henton De Angelis, Elisabetta Mariani, Andrew Biggin, Rhodri Kendrick, Setsuya Nakada, Takeshi Matsushima, Yan Lavallée

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Shearing of magma during ascent can promote strain localisation near the conduit margins. Any mechanical and thermal discontinuities associated with such events may alter the chemical, physical and rheological stability of the magma and thus its propensity to erupt. Lava spines can record such processes, preserving a range of macroscopic and microscopic deformation textures, attributed to shearing and friction, as magma ascends through the viscous-brittle transition. Here, we use a multidisciplinary approach combining petrology, microstructures, crystallography, magnetics and experimentation to assess the evidence, role and extent of shearing across a marginal shear zone of the 1994-1995 lava spine at Unzen volcano, Japan. Our results show that crystals can effectively monitor stress conditions during magma ascent, with viscous remobilisation, crystal plasticity and comminution all systematically increasing towards the spine margin. Accompanying this, we find an increase in mineral destabilisation in the form of pargasitic amphibole breakdown displaying textural variations across the shear zone, from symplectitic to granular rims towards the spine margin. In addition, the compaction of pores, chemical and textural alteration of interstitial glass and magnetic variations all change systematically with shear intensity. The strong correlation between the degree of shearing, crystal deformation and disequilibrium features, together with distinct magnetic properties, implies a localised thermal input due to shear and frictional processes near the conduit margin during magma ascent. This was accompanied by late-stage or post-emplacement fluid- and gas-induced alteration of the gouge, as well as oxidation and glass devitrification. Understanding and recognising evidence for strain localisation during magma ascent may, therefore, be vital when assessing factors that regulate the style of volcanic eruptions, which may provide insights into the cryptic shifts from effusive to explosive activity as observed at many active lava domes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-826
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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