Physical and Chemical Variations Along the Central American Volcanic Arc

Kent Ratajeski
Published June 13, 2007.
Central America volcanoes - smaller
The Central American Volcanic Arc. Black triangles indicate volcanic centers.
Photo courtesty of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.


The Central American volcanic arc displays large arc-parallel variations in chemical composition that yield important clues concerning the complex origin of magmas in subduction zones. In this exercise, students use data compiled for the NSF MARGINS program to compare heights, volumes, and whole-rock compositions of 41 Quaternary volcanic centers along the Central American arc, together with crustal thicknesses, to assess the possible sources of the magmas and the petrologic processes that have modified them prior to eruption.

This exercise is one of several examples featured in the Geoscience Education in the New Cyberinfrastructure module at SERC. Each example is designed to give instructors and students direct practice for using cyberinformatic databases and tools to analyze Earth science data. Students should begin with Part 1.

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