Project summary

This proposal represents a request for prolongation of the activities carried out by the previous Task Force II, updated by taking into account the most recent advancements in volcanotectonics. Volcanism is one of the more complex geological processes on Earth, as it involves the generation of magma in the mantle or lower crust, its ascent, stoping, arrest, or eruption at the surface (Gudmundsson, 2002; Gudmundsson et al., 2014). Understanding how magma opens its way to the surface or arrests, and how host rocks are deformed during intrusions, is key to better understanding the volcanic threats posed to society, which has become more and more vulnerable to volcanic impacts over the last decade (e.g.: 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland). This is mainly due to the rapid demographic development and to modern society’s technological dependency (Wilson et al., 2014). The way in which magma moves and evolves through the lithosphere determines whether it will erupt or not; all these processes are extremely complex and their investigation cannot be undertaken by a single group of experts, as it requires a wide array of multidisciplinary studies that combine techniques and concepts from various disciplines. Intrusive, volcanic, and related structural processes have traditionally been studied separately, but in recent years they are increasingly considered as a single system; this bears important implications for the study of lithospheric processes, the formation of mineral deposits associated with siliceous magmas, the formation and dynamics of geothermal reservoirs and, last but not least, for volcanic hazard and risk assessment (Tibaldi et al., 2005).

The proposed Task Force has its roots in the consolidated network of scientists from all over the world who have been cooperating, under ILP’s umbrella during the last 10 years (Cloething et al., 2012, 2018); besides, the present proposal aims to further expand this network in order to incorporate new, leading-edge techniques that have been developing lately, and to foster the involvement of young researchers. This ILP project aims to promote a discussion forum about the present state of knowledge of tectonic and magmatic processes. Through these efforts, we also intend to contribute to better defining the most effective techniques and data necessary to enhance our understanding of volcanic hazards.


This project focuses on the study of four key topics that correspond to the main steps of magma upwelling: magma ascent, magma chamber emplacement, stoping/halting, and eruption. The first step is related to the ascent of magma from the source region through the lithosphere. The second step is the accumulation of magma in deep or shallow reservoirs where crystallisation may lead to formation of plutons, the third step is the process in which magma gradually works its way upward by breaking off and engulfing blocks of the country rock, or comes to a halt due to various causes. The fourth step is the very shallow magma upwelling that brings to volcanic eruptions.

It is broadly accepted that these steps of the magma mass transfer process are closely related to tectonic activity, i.e. the relative motions of lithospheric plates and their effects (Solomon, 1978; Gudmundsson, 1986; Cembrano and Lara, 2009). On the other side, the intrusive and upwelling magma processes can induce deformation of the country rocks (Tibaldi, 1996; Tibaldi et al., 2013). This deformation can be detected, once it becomes shallow (crustal), representing a formidable tool to detect an impeding eruption. Each of these specific issues constitutes the topic of important geological, geophysical, geochronological, structural and experimental studies. Although the connection between the discussed aspects is indisputable, their complexity makes very difficult to address them jointly, unless by favouring the dialogue between various scientists with diverse skills and improving our multidisciplinary network.

The new techniques that appeared in the very last years, in fact, require to expand collaboration and networking, with a holistic view especially dedicated to propose new joint national and international projects. These new techniques are: Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality (Gerloni et al., 2019), field and aerial Structure from Motion (Bonali et al., 2019), X-rays and similar techniques applied to analogue modelling (Fedorik et al., 2019), and more sophisticated 3D numerical modelling (Beaussier et al., 2019). The present Task Force wants to include and merge these new techniques together with a robust approach to data collection by classical methodologies, above all, field geology, physical volcanology, structural geology, seismology, geophysical exploration, geochronology, and geochemistry. We will spend our efforts to improve future investigations by linking multiple research approaches and technologies.