Proximity to magma bodies is generally acknowledged as providing the energy source for hot hydrothermal reservoirs. Hence, it is appropriate to think of a “magma–hydrothermal system” as an entity, rather than as separate systems. Repeated coring of Kilauea Iki lava lake on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, has provided evidence of an impermeable, conductive layer, or magma–hydrothermal boundary (MHB), between a hydrothermal system and molten rock. Crystallization on the lower face of the MHB and cracking by cooling on the upper face drive the zone downward while maintaining constant thickness, a Stefan problem of moving thermal boundaries with a phase change. Use of the observed thermal gradient in MHB of 84 °C/m yields a heat flux of 130 W/m2
. Equating this with the heat flux produced by crystallization and cooling of molten lava successfully predicts the growth rate of lava lake crust of 2 m/a, which is faster than simple conduction where crust thickens at
and heat flux declines with
. However, a lava lake is not a magma chamber. Compared to erupted and degassed lava, magma at depth contains a significant amount of dissolved water that influences the magma’s thermal, chemical, and mechanical behaviors. Also, a lava lake is rootless; it has no source of heat and mass, whereas there are probably few shallow, active magma bodies that are isolated from deeper sources. Drilling at Krafla Caldera, Iceland, showed the existence of a near-liquidus rhyolite magma body at 2.1 km depth capped by an MHB with a heat flux of ≥16 W/m2
. This would predict a crystallization rate of 0.6 m/a, yet no evidence of crystallization and the development of a mush zone at the base of MHB is observed. Instead, the lower face of MHB is undergoing partial melting. The explanation would appear to lie in vigorous convection of the hot rhyolite magma, delivering both heat and H2
O but not crystals to its ceiling. This challenges existing concepts of magma chambers and has important implications for use of magma as the ultimate geothermal power source. It also illuminates the possibility of directly monitoring magma beneath active volcanoes for eruption forecasting.
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