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These magmas are so highly viscous, or sticky, that expanding volcanic gases cannot easily escape from them. This causes a tremendous build-up in pressure, often leading to extremely explosive eruptions. During such eruptions, magma is shattered into tiny fragments (chiefly ash and pumice) and ejected thousands of meters into the atmosphere or even the stratosphere. Under the force of gravity, sometimes these fragments sweep down a volcano's flanks at speeds of more than 100 kilometers per hour, mixing with air and volcanic gases to form pyroclastic flows. Rock fragments can also mix with water in river valleys to form lahars (volcanic debris flows and mudflows) that destroy everything in their paths.

Andesite and dacite magmas also erupt to form lava flows. Because these lavas are more viscous ("stickier") than basalt, they tend to form thicker flows that travel shorter distances from the vent; consequently, andesite and dacite lavas typically build tall cones with steep slopes of more than 20 degrees.


Mount Hood, Oregon. Eruptions from the volcano about 1,800 and 200 years ago from the Crater Rock lava dome formed a broad apron of rock debris on the volcano's south side. (Photograph by Lyn Topinka.)

 Crater Rock, Mt. Hood

Maintained by John Watson
Updated 06.24.97

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