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Magma vs. Lava: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 9, 2023
Magma is molten rock beneath Earth's surface, while lava is magma that has erupted and flows on the surface.

Key Differences

Magma is a hot, fluid mass of molten rock located beneath the Earth's crust. This geothermal substance possesses a complex, viscous nature and can contain a variety of elements, such as silicate, and may also house suspended crystals and gases. The accumulation and movement of magma underground create significant pressure, leading to volcanic activity when the pressure is forcefully released.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023
Lava, on the other hand, is the term used to describe magma once it has emerged from a volcanic eruption and is present on the Earth's surface. Upon eruption, magma transforms, becoming lava that can flow, ooze, or spurt, depending on its viscosity and gas content. The visibility of lava during volcanic eruptions serves as a stark contrast to the concealed nature of magma beneath the surface.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023
While magma resides silently beneath our feet, it plays a crucial role in shaping the geology of our planet. This molten rock forms in areas of high temperature and pressure within the Earth, such as beneath tectonic plate boundaries or hotspots. The solidification of magma beneath the Earth's surface leads to the creation of igneous rock, which forms the basis of our continents.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023
Lava, with its grand, often destructive emergence, plays a pivotal role in shaping landscapes and forming new land. Upon cooling and solidifying, lava also creates igneous rock, contributing to the formation of islands, mountains, and plains. Lava flows have been responsible for the creation of various geological formations and land masses throughout history, exhibiting the transformative power of Earth's geological processes.
Harlon Moss
Oct 09, 2023
Although magma and lava are the same substance in different locations, their interaction with the environment and subsequent geological roles are notably distinct. While magma's slow cooling beneath the surface forms coarse-grained rocks, lava's rapid cooling on the surface generates fine-grained rocks. Both magma and lava offer compelling insights into the Earth’s dynamic, ever-changing nature, revealing the potent energy stored beneath its crust.
Sara Rehman
Oct 09, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Location

Located beneath the Earth’s surface.
Exists on the Earth’s surface.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Cooling Process

Cools slowly, forming coarse-grained rocks.
Cools quickly, forming fine-grained rocks.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Visibility

Not visible without technological aid.
Visible and can be observed directly.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Interaction

Interacts with surrounding rock underground.
Interacts with the atmosphere and terrain.
Sara Rehman
Oct 09, 2023

Role in Rock Formation

Forms intrusive igneous rock.
Forms extrusive igneous rock.
Janet White
Oct 09, 2023
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Magma and Lava Definitions

Magma

Magma forms through the melting of Earth’s mantle or crust.
Magma can accumulate in reservoirs, affecting the geology of the region.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Lava

Lava can exhibit various forms, such as pahoehoe and aa.
Pahoehoe lava is characterized by a smooth, billowy surface.
Sara Rehman
Oct 09, 2023

Magma

Magma is molten rock beneath Earth’s crust.
The magma chamber beneath the volcano is immense and active.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Lava

Lava is magma that has reached the Earth’s surface.
The lava flowed rapidly, covering the landscape in a thick, molten layer.
Huma Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Magma

Magma can contain gases, crystals, and melted minerals.
Gases trapped in magma contribute to the explosive nature of some eruptions.
Huma Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Lava

Lava cools and solidifies to form new land and rock formations.
The solidified lava created a new plateau, altering the local terrain.
Janet White
Oct 09, 2023

Magma

Magma’s movement can cause geological activity, such as earthquakes.
The slow ascent of magma towards the surface caused a series of minor earthquakes.
Sara Rehman
Oct 09, 2023

Lava

Lava tubes can transport lava from a volcanic vent to a flow’s end.
Lava tubes provide a conduit, enabling lava to travel over considerable distances.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 09, 2023

Magma

Magma cools slowly, forming various intrusive igneous rocks.
Granite is formed through the slow cooling of magma beneath the Earth’s surface.
Harlon Moss
Oct 09, 2023

Lava

Lava’s composition affects its viscosity and eruption style.
High-silica lava tends to be more viscous and erupt explosively.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 09, 2023

Lava

Molten rock that reaches the earth's surface through a volcano or fissure.
Sumera Saeed
Aug 19, 2018

Lava

The rock formed by the cooling and solidifying of molten rock.
Sumera Saeed
Aug 19, 2018

Lava

The molten rock ejected by a volcano from its crater or fissured sides.
Sumera Saeed
Aug 19, 2018

Lava

Magma.
Sumera Saeed
Aug 19, 2018

Lava

A shade of red, named after the volcanic lava.
Sumera Saeed
Aug 19, 2018

Lava

The melted rock ejected by a volcano from its top or fissured sides. It flows out in streams sometimes miles in length. It also issues from fissures in the earth's surface, and forms beds covering many square miles, as in the Northwestern United States.
Sumera Saeed
Aug 19, 2018

Lava

Rock that in its molten form (as magma) issues from volcanos; lava is what magma is called when it reaches the surface
Sumera Saeed
Aug 19, 2018

FAQs

How does magma form?

Magma forms through the partial melting of rock in the Earth's mantle or crust.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

What is a magma chamber?

A magma chamber is a reservoir of magma within the Earth’s crust.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

What is magma?

Magma is molten rock located beneath the Earth's surface.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Does lava only flow during eruptions?

Lava primarily flows during volcanic eruptions, but it can continue to ooze afterward.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

What defines lava?

Lava is magma that has erupted and flows on the Earth's surface.
Huma Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

What happens when lava cools down?

When lava cools, it solidifies and forms igneous rock, such as basalt.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 09, 2023

What dangers does lava present?

Lava can destroy structures, start fires, alter landscapes, and pose a threat to living organisms in its path.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 09, 2023

Can humans cause magma to form?

Humans cannot create magma, as it forms naturally under extreme conditions within the Earth.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

What role does magma play in Earth’s geology?

Magma plays a critical role in forming Earth’s crust and igneous rock, influencing geological activities.
Harlon Moss
Oct 09, 2023

Does magma only exist under volcanoes?

No, magma can exist in various locations beneath the Earth’s crust, not just under volcanoes.
Sara Rehman
Oct 09, 2023

Is all magma the same?

No, magma can vary in composition, temperature, and viscosity.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 09, 2023

Are there uses for cooled lava?

Yes, cooled lava, in the form of igneous rock, can be used in construction, art, and landscaping.
Janet White
Oct 09, 2023

How does lava create new land?

Lava can create new land by solidifying upon reaching the ocean or by accumulating and cooling during continual eruptions.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 09, 2023

Can we utilize lava for energy?

Yes, geothermal energy can harness heat from volcanic regions, including areas with lava flows, for power generation.
Harlon Moss
Oct 09, 2023

Can lava vary in appearance and form?

Yes, lava can take various forms, such as smooth pahoehoe and rough aa, depending on its viscosity and cooling rate.
Sara Rehman
Oct 09, 2023

Can we find magma on Earth's surface?

No, once magma reaches the Earth's surface, it is referred to as lava.
Sara Rehman
Oct 09, 2023

Is lava always hot?

Lava is extremely hot when it erupts but gradually cools and solidifies upon exposure to air.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

Can magma cause earthquakes?

Yes, the movement of magma underground can induce seismic activity, causing earthquakes.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023

How fast can lava flow?

Lava flow speeds can vary from being nearly stationary to moving at around 40 km/h (25 mph) in certain conditions.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 09, 2023

What types of rock does magma form?

Magma forms intrusive igneous rock, such as granite, when it solidifies below the surface.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 09, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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