Lava Spine

Lava Spine

Lava Spine Landforms Have 2 Main Characteristics:

  1. Magma rising out of a lava dome or vent
  2. Cool enough to maintain its shape

Example of a Lava Spine Landform:

Mt. St. Helens, Washington State, USA
The lava spine picture above is at the summit of Snaefellsjokull, a Volcano in Iceland

What is a Lava Spine Landform?

A lava spine is magma in solid form, rising from a lava dome. It may be in the form of a column, or a slab or other shape.

How are Lava Spines Formed?

When magma within a lava dome has cooled enough to maintain its shape, pressure from a vent below can force the solid portion upward and out of the dome. A spine can also rise directly from a vent.

How Large is a Lava Spine?

A lava spine can be from a few feet wide to hundreds of feet across and hundreds of feet high.

Where Can a Lava Spine Be Found?

A lava spine can be found in an active lava dome or vent that may be inside a volcanic crater, or in an area of volcanic activity.

Famous Lava Spines and Facts

• Mt. St. Helens, Washington State, USA
• Mt. Pelée, Island of Martinique, Antilles Islands
• Mt. Sinabung, northern Sumatra

After the 1980 catastrophic eruption of Mt. St. Helens, a lava dome soon began to grow from the inside the large mountain crater. In February 1983, one spine was seen rising out of the dome, which then collapsed. A second spine called the “Whaleback” soon began rising and remained until July, 2005 before collapsing.

In 2006, another spine in the form of a slab, described as half the size of a football field, began rising from the dome. The major portion of this remained until October when a large collapse and avalanche occurred at the dome. After an eruption that killed 30,000 people, Mt. Pelée on the Island of Martinique began to produce a spine from a vent in the crater floor in October, 1902.

The spine rose to a height of approximately 1000 feet, measuring from 300 to 500 feet wide before collapsing in March, 1903. Renewed activity at Mt. Pelée in 1929 produced another spine of smaller size. In northern Sumatra on August 29, 2010, Mt. Sinabung began to erupt several times, continuing in early September.

Ash plumes were sent upward and lava overflowed the crater at one point. After the largest eruption on September 7, activity continued and slowed during the following weeks, and a spine rose slowly out of the lava dome in the crater.

Lava Spine definition:

Magma in solid form rising from a lava dome or vent usually in a vertical shape.

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