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Aerial view of the Moses Rock Dike diatreme in San Juan County, Utah[1]

A diatreme, sometimes known as a maar-diatreme volcano, is a volcanic pipe formed by a gaseous explosion. When magma rises up through a crack in Earth's crust and makes contact with a shallow body of groundwater, rapid expansion of heated water vapor and volcanic gases can cause a series of explosions. A relatively shallow crater (known as a maar) is left, and a rock-filled fracture (the actual diatreme) in the crust. Diatremes breach the surface and produce a steep, inverted cone shape.

The term diatreme has been applied more generally to any concave body of broken rock formed by explosive or hydrostatic forces, whether or not it is related to volcanism. The word comes from Ancient Greek δία- (dia-) 'through, across, over', and τρῆμα (trêma) 'hole, aperture'.

Global distribution[edit]

Maar-diatreme volcanoes are not uncommon, reported as the second most common type of volcano on continents and islands.

Igneous intrusions cause the formation of a diatreme only in the specific setting where groundwater exists; thus most igneous intrusions do not produce diatremes.

Examples of diatremes include the Blackfoot diatreme and Cross diatreme in British Columbia, Canada.

Economic importance[edit]

Diatremes are sometimes associated with deposition of economically significant mineral deposits such as kimberlite magma, which originates in the upper mantle. When a diatreme is formed due to a kimberlite intrusion, there is a possibility that diamonds may be brought up, as diamonds are formed in the upper mantle at depths of 150-200 kilometers. Kimberlite magmas can sometimes include chunks of diamond as xenoliths, making them economically significant.


  1. ^ McGetchin, T. R. (1968). "The Moses Rock Dike: Geology, Petrology and Mode of Emplacement of a Kimberlite-Bearing Breccia Dike, San Juan County, Utah". Ph.D. Dissertation. California Institute of Technology. Retrieved 14 June 2019.

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