VHP Photo Glossary: Pumice

Close view of pumice erupted from Mount Pinatube, Philippines, in 1991

Photograph by W.E. Scott on 27 June 1991

Pumice

Pumice is a light, porous volcanic rock that forms during explosive eruptions. It resembles a sponge because it consists of a network of gas bubbles frozen amidst fragile volcanic glass and minerals. All types of magma (basalt, andesite, dacite, and rhyolite) will form pumice.


Pumice is similar to the liquid foam generated when a bottle of pressurized soda is opened--the opening depressurizes the soda and enables dissolved carbon dioxide gas to escape or erupt through the opening. During an explosive eruption, volcanic gases dissolved in the liquid portion of magma also expand rapidly to create a foam or froth; in the case of pumice, the liquid part of the froth quickly solidifies to glass around the gas bubbles.


Image: Dacitic pumice fragments erupted by Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, during an enormous eruption on 15 June 1991.


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