Difference Between Lava and Magma (With Table)

Volcanoes occur on the surface of the earth when there is a displacement of tectonic plates, and they are either converging or diverging. Volcanoes are mostly found inside the water. Volcanoes emit various gases, magma, lava, ash, below the surface of the earth to come out and release energy. Stretching and thinning of the crust’s place can also lead to the formation of volcanoes. Eruptions of volcanoes can cause the temperature of the atmosphere to change, resulting in acid rain.

Lava vs Magma

The difference between lava and magma is that lava has a quick cooling property that allows it to cool quickly into crystals and turn into glass particles. In contrast, the magma doesn’t cool quickly. It takes a lot of time to cool down. Because of this, magma gives rise to huge crystals. Lava is the molten fluid that comes out of the earth’s surface during a volcanic eruption. Magma is the molten material that comes out during an eruption.

Lava is the molten liquid that ejects from the core of the planet, and it can be from the earth as well as from the moon. When lava comes out after eruption from the volcanoes, it flows, and it is called lava flow. Lava is almost 10,000 times viscous than water. It can travel up to large distances before it cools and solidifies to form a crust. Lava consists of mainly silicate materials, quartz, micas etc.

Magma can be a molten or semi-molten fluid from which igneous rocks are formed. It is found below the earth’s surface. The process of magma coming out from the core to the surface is called magmatism. Many pieces of evidence have been found that this phenomenon occurs in other terrestrial planets as well. Magma consists of gas crystals and bubbles. Magma, like lava, is very rich in silica. It contains different concentrations of gases like water vapour, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide etc.

Comparison Table Between Lava and Magma

Parameters of ComparisonLavaMagma
Temperature700-1200 degrees celsius700-1600 degrees celsius
Cooling propertyTakes a quick time.Takes a long time.
TypesBlocky lava flow, Pahoehoe flow, Aa flow, and Pillow lava flow.Andesitic, Basaltic, and Rhyolitic.
CompositionSilicate materials, quartz, micas etc.Water vapour, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide etc.

What is Lava?

 The term ‘lava’ comes from an Italian word, and its meaning was derived from Latin, which means to fall or slide. The first account of lava was given by geologist Francesco Serao in his book ‘Vesuvius’ in 1737. He described lava as a flow of fiery liquid. Lava mainly consists of silicate and non-silicate minerals, which includes quartz, micas, olivine, feldspars etc. How the lava flows shows the behaviour of lava.

Lava is determined based on its viscosity. It is 10,000 times viscous than water. The temperature of lava ranges from 800 degrees Celsius to 1200 degrees celsius. The temperature and sheer rate of how lava flows to determine its composition. It is a type of volcanic activity when molten liquid erupts beneath the earth’s surface. Greater is the viscosity of the lava. Greater is the chance that lava will be explosive. Mostly lava flows on planets like Mars, Venus and earth consisting of basalt rocks.

Lava is more liquid when it erupts. With time it becomes more viscous as it cools down. It cools down very quickly to form a rocky crust. There are various types of lava-like A a Pāhoehoe, Block lava, Pillow lava, Domes and coulées. Lava forms various types of landforms on earth like lava lakes, lava domes, lava tubes, lava Delta. Besides this, there is also lava fountains that erupt non explosively from vent or crater of the earth. The highest lava fountains were recorded in Italy at Mount Etna in 2013 at 11,000 feet.

What is Magma?

The term ‘magma’ is an ancient Greek word meaning thick unguent that spreads quickly. Magma is found when melting mantle or crust in different tectonic plates or subduction or rift zones takes place. This molten material is stored in magma chambers. During their storage, magma can modify itself into a more crystallised form or magma mixing etc. During geothermal drilling projects in Iceland, magma was found ‘in situ, meaning on-site.

Magma contains solid crystals, and when it approaches the crust of the earth, it releases all the pressure inside it into the form of dissolved gases, liquid, bubbles etc. Magma liquids are very rich in silica content. Rarely they do not contain silica. Magma is divided into four types depending upon its chemical composition of silica. They are Felsic magma, Mafic magmas, Mafic magmas, Ultramafic magmas, Intermediate magma. Then there is non-silicate magma that contains Carbonatite and natrocarbonatite, Sulfur, and iron oxide.

Magma also contains various types of gases such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen fluoride. The temperature of magma ranges from 1470 to 2190 degrees Fahrenheit. The density of magma depends upon the content of iron present in it. At high temperature and low pressure, it expands slightly. Magma has two processes of solidification, i.e. Volcanism and plutonism. When rock melts and liquid comes, that is called primary magma. When it is difficult to distinguish primary magma, it is called parental magma.

Main Differences Between Lava and Magma

  1. The term lava is originated from the Italian word and meaning is to slide or fall. The term magma originated from a Greek word meaning thick unguent.
  2. The temperature of lava ranges between 700-1200 degrees celsius. The temperature of magma ranges between 700-1600 degrees celsius.
  3. Lava takes a very quick time to cool down and crystalizes to form glass particles. Magma takes a lot of time to cool, and igneous rocks are formed because of it.
  4. Types of Lava includes Blocky lava flow, Pahoehoe flow, Aa flow, and Pillow lava flow. Types of Magma includes Andesitic, Basaltic, and Rhyolitic.
  5. The composition of lava contains silicate materials, feldspars, olivine, quartz, micas etc. The composition of magma contains silica, iron oxide, water vapour, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide etc.


Both lava and magma come out due to the volcanic eruption. Both come out of the volcano at the same time. Manner and style of volcanic eruption determine the composition of lava. The viscosity of the lava and dissolved gases are very important for magma as it determines the silica content in magma. Both lava and magma are interconnected terms. Often they are used in exchange.

Lava and magma are almost the same because both are hot molten liquids. The difference being that lava comes out on the earth’s crust and solidifies into the rock more quickly. In contrast, magma remains inside and takes more time to cool. Magma also remains under great pressure containing various gases.


  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00371146
  2. https://www.ajsonline.org/content/266/4/225.short
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