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In volcanology, a lava dome is a roughly circular mound-shaped protrusion resulting from the slow extrusion of viscous lava from a volcano. The geochemistry of lava domes can vary from basalt to rhyolite although most preserved domes tend to have high silica content.The characteristic dome shape is attributed to high viscosity that prevents the lava from flowing very far. This high viscosity can be obtained in two ways: by high levels of silica in the magma, or by degassing of fluid magma. Since viscous basaltic and andesitic domes weather fast and easily break apart by further input of fluid lava, most of the preserved domes have high silica content and consists of rhyolite or dacite.

Dome dynamics

Lava domes are dynamic structures that evolve over time undergoing various processcess such as growth, collapse, solidification and erosion.

Lava domes grow by endogenic dome growth or exogenic dome growth. The first one implies interior expandion to accommodate new lava and the second one refers to superficial pilling up of lava. It is the high viscosity of the lava that prevents it from flowing far from the vent from which it extrudes, creating a dome-like shape of sticky lava that then cools slowly in situ. Domes may reach heights of several hundred meters, and can grow slowly and steadily for months (e.g. Unzenmarker volcano), years (e.g. Soufrière Hillsmarker volcano), or even centuries (e.g. Mount Merapimarker volcano). The sides of these structures are composed of unstable rock debris. Due to the intermittent build up of gas pressure, erupting domes can often experience episodes of explosive eruption over time. When part of a lava dome collapses while it still molten, it can produce pyroclastic flows, one of the most lethal forms of a volcanic event. Other hazards associated with lava domes are the destruction of property, forest fires, and lahars triggered by pyroclastic flows near mud, snow and ice. Lava domes are one of the principal structural features of many stratovolcanoes worldwide.

Characteristics of lava dome eruptions include shallow, long-period and hybrid seismicity, which is attributed to excess fluid pressures in the contributing vent chamber. Other characteristics of lava domes include their hemi-spherical dome shape, cycles of dome growth over long periods, and sudden onsets of violent explosive activity. The average rate of dome growth may be used as a rough indicator of magma supply, but it shows no systematic relationship to the timing or characteristics of lava dome explosions.

Related landforms


Photo showing the bulging cryptodome of Mt.
St. Helens on April 27 1980.
A cryptodome (from Greek κρυπτός, kryptos, "hidden, secret") is a dome-shaped structure created by accumulation of viscous magma at a shallow depth. One example of a cryptodome was in the May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helensmarker, where the explosive eruption began after a landslide caused the side of the volcano to fail, leading to explosive decompression of the subterranean cryptodome.

Lava coulees

Coulees are lava domes that have experienced some flow away from their original position, thus resembling both lava domes and lava flows.

Examples of lava domes

Lava domes
Dome or volcano name Country Volcanic area Compostion Last dome eruption

or growth episode
Chaiténmarker Chilemarker Southern Volcanic Zone Rhyolite 2009
Cordón Caullemarker Chilemarker Southern Volcanic Zone Rhyodacite to Rhyolite Holocene
Galerasmarker Colombiamarker Northern Volcanic Zone
Lassen Peakmarker Californiamarker, USAmarker Cascade Volcanic Arc Basalt 1917
Mount Hoodmarker Oregonmarker, USAmarker Cascade Volcanic Arc Basalt 1907
Mount Merapimarker Indonesiamarker Sunda Arc
Nea Kamenimarker Greecemarker
Volcán Nuevomarker Chilemarker Southern Volcanic Zone Dacite 1986
Puy-de-Dômemarker Francemarker Chaîne des Puysmarker ca. 5760 BC
Santiaguitomarker Guatemalamarker Central America Volcanic Arc Dacite 2009
Sollipullimarker Chilemarker Southern Volcanic Zone Andesite to Dacite
Soufrière Hillsmarker Montserratmarker Lesser Antilles 2009
Mount St. Helensmarker Washingtonmarker, USAmarker Cascade Volcanic Arc Basalt 2008
Torfajökullmarker Icelandmarker Iceland Hotspot Rhyolite
Unnamed Japanmarker Japan Arc Dacite Miocene
Wizard Islandmarker Oregonmarker, USAmarker Cascade Volcanic Arc Basalt 2850 BC


  1. Sparks, R.S.J. (1997)
  2. Newhall, C.G., W.G. Melson (1983)
  3. Yoshihiko Goto and Nobutaka Tsuchiya. Morphology and growth style of a Miocene submarine dacite lava dome at Atsumi, northeast Japan. 2004 Elsevier B.V.

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