MIKKEL JUUL JENSEN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MIKKEL JUUL JENSEN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Volcanic eruption. Computer illustration of the 3 stages in a typical explosive volcanic eruption. Molten rock, or magma, rises up through weaknesses in the underlying rock (lower centre). This magma, seen magnified at lower right, contains small bubbles of gas (orange). As the magma rises up into the volcano, any groundwater it meets will be vapourised, increasing the pressure. These larger gas bubbles are seen magnified in the magma at lower centre. When the magma (magnified at upper right) reaches the surface, the pressure drop causes the gas it contains to expand explosively, blasting out lava, rocks and a huge plume of ash.
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