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Open-File Report 95–85

Volcanic Gas

By Kenneth A. McGee and Terrence M. Gerlach

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (78 kB)Abstract

In Roman mythology, Vulcan, the god of fire, was said to have made tools and weapons for the other gods in his workshop at Olympus. Throughout history, volcanoes have frequently been identified with Vulcan and other mythological figures. Scientists now know that the “smoke" from volcanoes, once attributed by poets to be from Vulcan’s forge, is actually volcanic gas naturally released from both active and many inactive volcanoes.

The molten rock, or magma, that lies beneath volcanoes and fuels eruptions, contains abundant gases that are released to the surface before, during, and after eruptions. These gases range from relatively benign low-temperature steam to thick hot clouds of choking sulfurous fume jetting from the earth.

Water vapor is typically the most abundant volcanic gas, followed by carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Other volcanic gases are hydrogen sulfide, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrofluoric acid, and other trace gases and volatile metals. The concentrations of these gas species can vary considerably from one volcano to the next.

First posted June 11, 2014

  • This report is available only on the Web

For additional information, contact:
CVO, Volcano Science Center,
Cascades Volcano Observatory
U.S. Geological Survey
1300 SE Cardinal Court, Building 10, Suite 100
Vancouver, WA 98683-9589
http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

McGee, K. A., Gerlach, Terrance Melvin, 1995, Volcanic gas: U. S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 95-85, 2pp., https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1995/0085/.


 


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