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Differences Between Magma and Lava

Last updated date: 04th Mar 2024
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About Magma and Lava provided by Vedantu

Before going into the difference between magma and lava, you must understand them individually. Furthermore, you must also note a few related details to have a better understanding of their difference.

Magma: Definition, Composition, and Types

The severely hot semi-liquid and liquid rock present in the earth’s crust is termed magma. Moreover, the planet earth consists of different layers, namely – inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust. While understanding magma definition, you must note it is significantly present in the earth’s mantle. However, this molten material propels through cracks and holes in the exterior surface, which creates a volcanic emission. 

A few related highlights are as follows.

  • Magma is composed of minerals. 

  • It contains dissolved gases like carbon dioxide, water vapour, and sulphur in small amounts.

  • Magma remains in a liquid state due to high pressure and extreme temperature below the earth’s crust.

  • Magma is classified into three main types such as basaltic, rhyolitic, and andesitic and each of these types has a distinct composition of minerals.

  • Silicon dioxide is present in a considerable amount in all kinds of magma.

Basaltic Magma: High concentrations of iron, calcium, and magnesium are present in basaltic magma. But, it has low amounts of sodium and potassium. Moreover, the temperature of basaltic magma ranges from 1832°F to 2192°F.

Rhyolitic Magma: In rhyolitic magma sodium and potassium is available in more significant amounts, but calcium, magnesium, and iron are present in low quantities. Its temperature varies from 1202°F to 1472°F.

Andesitic Magma: This type of magma contains moderate percentages of sodium, potassium, calcium, and iron, and has a temperature ranging from 1472°F to 1832°F. However, the flowing property of magma depends on the mineral composition and temperature of the same.

Lava Definition, Composition, and Types

The molten rock, when it reaches the surface of the earth becomes lava. It has a temperature ranging from 700 °C to 1200 °C (which is 1300 °F to 2200 °F). Moreover, the material of lava can be entirely free-flowing like fluids. But it can also be very stiff.

A few highlights related to lava are as follows.

  • The higher the amount of silica present in lava, the more is its viscosity (thickness).

  • Lava is a mixture of silicate minerals like olivine, amphibole, quartz, mica, feldspar, and pyroxene.

  • The composition as mentioned above shows the behavior of lava rather than its temperature during an eruption.

  • Lava flow can be distinguished into three fundamental types – aa lava flow, pahoehoe lava flow, and blocky lava flow. The aa flow contains free lumps of pointed lava pieces, whereas pahoehoe flow is relatively smooth. On the other hand, blocky flow is more or less similar to a flow. But, it is comparatively more viscous.

Next, take a look at the difference between magma and lava represented in a tabular form.

Differences between Magma and Lava

Magma vs Lava

Basis of comparison





The molten fluid that comes out of the earth’s crust from the holes and cracks

The molten material that remains under the surface of the earth


Lava temperature is slightly less hot and varies between (1300 to 2200) °F

Magma temperature is slightly hotter and varies between (1300 to 2400) °F

Cooling property

The cooling property of lava is faster than that of magma. As a result, sometimes lava crystalizes into glass particles.

On the other hand, magma requires a considerable amount of time to cool down. Due to this reason, magma gives rise to huge crystals.

Origination of the term

The term lava comes from the Italian language

The term magma comes from Ancient Greek

Add on to Geography:

Geography is a subject better understood with maps and diagrams. Try to draw a rough diagram of physical features like mountains, hills, and valleys when you make notes. Take the liberty to use colours and sketches to make your notes attractive. To improve your scores, read previous year's question papers, make a list of topics with more weightage, and study them thoroughly before the exam. Maps are another important feature of geography. Learn to draw a rough sketch of maps according to your syllabus, plot different features like physical features, distribution features, and practice them to avoid confusion between different features. When you draw maps and figures in the exam and explain them precisely according to the marks, you have a better chance of scoring well. Students can also learn different concepts from online sources, they provide video lectures, attractive images, and interactive elements to explain the same concepts. You can avail such material for free from Vedantu. Even teachers can use these videos and photos to explain the concepts in the class. One should remember that physical geography is better understood with the help of diagrams and human geography is better understood with the help of maps and flowcharts.

Do It Yourself

1. What is the primary point of the Magma and Lava difference?
    1. Temperature 

    2. Colour 

    3. Location 

    4. Composition

2. What is the difference in the composition of Magma and Lava?
    1. Magma is gaseous in nature and lava is hard like solid

    2. Lava is liquid and magma is solid

    3. Dissolved gases are present in magma and absent in lava

    4. No difference

3. What is the Molten Rock called when it reaches Earth’s Crust?
    1. Mauna 

    2. Lava 

    3. Magma 

    4. Cinder

By going through the above discussion, you must have understood what is the difference between magma and lava. For more related topics, download our Vedantu app today and access not only related study material but online classes too.

FAQs on Differences Between Magma and Lava

1. Briefly define what is magma and lava?

Magma consists of molten rock that is found below the surface of earth. Furthermore, to define lava, it can be said that the molten material reaches the surface of the planet.

2. Mention the three main kinds of magma.

Three fundamental types of magma are andesitic, basaltic and rhyolitic.

3. Are lava and magma the same thing?

Location is the factor that distinguishes between lava and magma. Also, the molten rock that remains trapped is magma. Lava is the molten rock when it reaches the planet’s crust.

4. What is Volcanism?

A volcano is a crack on the earth’s surface in the crust area from which lava comes out, along with the lava, dust articles, ash, rocks fragments, and other materials come out. We can simply say that volcanism is a phenomenon in which pyroclastics, gases, lava come out of a vent on the earth's surface. It is caused by many factors like

  • Many radioactive substances are present in the inner layers and this causes a temperature difference. This differential temperature pushes the molten rock, ash, gases upwards until it erupts through a crack or fissure. 

  • The differences in temperature in various layers cause convection currents to rise, they are nothing but hot air masses trying to escape.

  • These currents create divergent boundaries and convergent boundaries, in a divergent boundary, the two different landmasses move away from each other and in convergent boundaries, the landmass move towards each other. 

  • At the divergent boundary, the landmass forms fissures and try to move away from each other, the hot gases, lava, dust particles escape from these fissures to reach the earth's surface and form different physical features. 

  • At the convergent plates, the denser plate subducts and due to an increase in temperature, rocks, landmass gets melted and adds up to the lava.

  • Magma is present inside the earth's surface and is molten rock, it reaches the earth's surface and turns to lava.

5. What are the different physical features associated with Lava and Magma?

Magma is nothing but molten rock material within the earth's surface and it reaches the earth's surface by making fissures, from volcanoes to turn into lava. When the lava solidifies, it forms many features as 

  • Hot magma solidifies within the earth's crust to form rocks known as plutonic rocks and if the same rocks are formed when the lava solidifies after reaching the earth's surface, they are called igneous rocks

  • When a volcano erupts, it releases hot magma, dust particles, and many other gases of sulphur and nitrogen which add up to air pollution. A crater is a vent on the volcano from which the magma and the dust come out, when the volcano is not active, it appears as depression.

  • When the magma in the volcanic chamber empties, the entire chamber collapses and falls due to this space created and the feature thus formed is called a caldera.

  • A cinder cone is another feature that is built by the pyroclastic elements that erupted out of the volcano and settled around the volcano vent.

  • Batholiths are the large volcanic rocks formed when the hot magma solidifies within the earth's surface and when the magma moves upwards, it also tends to move sidewards horizontally to form lopolith.

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