A four-dimensional X-ray tomographic microscopy study of bubble growth in basaltic foam
Understanding the influence of bubble foams on magma permeability and strength is critical to investigations of volcanic eruption mechanisms. Increasing foam porosity decreases strength, enhancing the probability of an eruption. However, higher porosities lead to larger permeabilities, which can lessen the eruption hazard. Here we measure bubble size and wall thickness distributions, as well as connectivity, and calculate permeabilities and tensile strengths of basaltic foams imaged by synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy during bubble growth in hydrated basaltic melts. Rapid vesiculation produces porous foams whose fragmentation thresholds are only 5-6 MPa and whose permeabilities increase from approximately 1x10(-10) to 1x10(-9) m(2) between 10 and 14 s despite decreasing connectivity between bubbles. These results indicate that basaltic magmas are most susceptible to failure immediately upon vesiculation and at later times, perhaps only 10's of seconds later, permeability increases may lessen the hazard of explosive, basaltic, Plinian eruptions.