UHM Dept. of Earth Sciences banner, sunset
over Diamond Head, (c) Ken H Rubin

Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology (VGP)

Our group studies active volcanoes and all major aspects of volcanic systems everywhere they occur on Earth. The University of Hawaiʻi is uniquely situated at the center of the Pacific "Ring of Fire".

VGP researchers use active Hawaiian volcanoes as natural laboratories of intraplate volcanism and fossil volcanic systems on the older islands to provide windows into deeper volcanic structures.

The group studies submarine volcanoes around the world using the UH and other research vessel, as well as human occupied and remote operated vehicles.

Group members even remotely monitor volcanoes on Earth and other planets with ground-based and space-borne observatories.

VGP has a wide range of modern, well-equipped analytical laboratories that provide data on the chemical composition and physical properties of igneous materials (see below).

The Hawaii Center for Volcanology is housed at SOEST; it includes scientists from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at UH Hilo, facilitating collaborative projects to monitor active volcanoes.

Current Research Programs

Submarine Volcano Processes: Petrologic, volcanologic, geochemical and isotopic variations along and across mid-ocean ridges and backarc basin spreading centers, arc and hot spot volcanoes; melt generation and magma chamber processes; active submarine volcanism and effects on marine environments; petrology of the deep lithosphere; hot spot-spreading center interactions; magmatic systems at propagating rifts; geochronology of submarine volcanism, geometry and dynamics of mantle flow.

Physical Volcanology: Eruption and emplacement of lava flows, flood basalt volcanism; physical properties of melts and lavas; explosive volcanism from silicic and intermediate volcanic centers, calderas and related ignimbrites; volcanic processes on extra-terrestrial bodies; volatile degassing and retention in magma chambers, environmental impact of eruptions; origin of dike complexes and rift zones.

Ocean Island and other Subaerial Volcanism: Volcano Monitoring, Petrologic, geochemical, isotopic, and geologic evolution of Hawaiian and other oceanic islands; Petrologic, seismic, and geodetic monitoring of active Hawaiian magmatic systems; satellite monitoring of volcanic hazards and eruption clouds; remote-sensing observation of extra-terrestrial volcanoes. Relationship of hot spots to flood basalt and oceanic plateau formation.

VGP Shore-Based Analytical and Experimental Laboratories

Radiogenic Isotope Facilty (the "SOEST Isotope lab"), including:

  • NU-HR MC-ICP-MS, multiple ion counting, high anundance sensitivity plasma mass spectrometer
  • VG54-WARP multi-collector high-abundance-sensitivity thermal ionization mass spectrometer (TIMS) for positive and negative ions analysis
  • Radioactive-isotope tracer and dating facilities
  • class 1000 clean lab complex
  • sample prep spaces, including Franz and heavy liquids mineral separation

Other Major Facilities:

  • Jeol Hyperprobe Electron Microprobe
  • Siemens SRS-303 Automated X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF)
  • Instruments for measuring electrical conductivity on rocks or rock melts, thermal conductivity and thermal expansion, porosity and gas permeability
  • thin sectioning and polishing equipment, including Buehler high-speed saw, and 10" lap wheel, and Vibromet polisher
  • Rock preparation labs

Experimental Petrology Laboratory

  • one atmosphere CO2-H2 gas-mixing furnace (Deltech 1700 oC)
  • Argon-medium high pressure line for cold seal vessels (TZM/HZM) operating up to 1100 oC and 2 kbar, with one rapid quench furnace and one traditional quench furnace
  • water-medium line for cold seal vessels (waspaloy), seven clamshell 1100 oC furnaces and plans for 4-5 vertical tube furnaces for rapid-quenching of runs up to 3 kbar
  • pressure variator by Harwood Engineering for automated pressure control (60,000 psi) in the water-medium line
  • Olympus BX-51 Pol microscope and Olympus 5050 Zoom digital camera with connected color TV

Research Divisions