Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 56, Issue 8, pp 640–659

Eruption and emplacement of a basaltic welded ignimbrite during caldera formation on Gran Canaria

  • A. Freundt
  • H. -U. Schmincke
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/BF00301468

Cite this article as:
Freundt, A. & Schmincke, H.U. Bull Volcanol (1995) 56: 640. doi:10.1007/BF00301468


The 14.1 Ma old composite ignimbrite cooling unit P1 (45 km3) on Gran Canaria comprises a lower mixed rhyolite-trachyte tuff, a central rhyolite-basalt mixed tuff, and a slightly rhyolite-contaminated basaltic tuff at the top. The basaltic tuff is compositionally zoned with (a) an upward change in basalt composition to higher MgO content (4.3–5.2 wt.%), (b) variably admixed rhyolite or trachyte (commonly <5 wt.%), and (c) an upward increasing abundance of basaltic and plutonic lithic fragments and cognate cumulate fragments. The basaltic tuff is divided into three structural units: (I) the welded basaltic ignimbrite, which forms the thickest part (c. 95 vol.%) and is the main subject of the present paper; (II) poorly consolidated massive, bomb- and block-rich beds interpreted as phreatomagmatic pyroclastic flow deposits; and (III) various facies of reworked basaltic tuff. Tuff unit I is a basaltic ignimbrite rather than a lava flow because of the absence of top and bottom breccias, radial sheet-like distribution around the central Tejeda caldera, thickening in valleys but also covering higher ground, and local erosion of the underlying P1 ash. A gradual transition from dense rock in the interior to ash at the top of the basaltic ignimbrite reflects a decrease in welding; the shape of the welding profile is typical for emplacement temperatures well above the minimum welding temperature. A similar transition occurs at the base where the ignimbrite was emplaced on cold ground in distal sections. In proximal sections the base is dense where it was emplaced on hot felsic P1 tuff. The intensity of welding, especially at the base, and the presence of spherical particles and of mantled and composite particles formed by accretion and coalescence in a viscous state imply that the flow was a suspension of hot magma droplets. The flow most likely had to be density stratified and highly turbulent to prevent massive coalescence and collapse. Model calculations suggest eruption through low pyroclastic fountains (<1000 m high) with limited cooling during eruption and turbulent flow from an initial temperature of 1160°C. The large volume of 26 km3 of erupted basalt compared with only 16 km3 of the evolved P1 magmas, and the extremely high discharge rates inferred from model calculations are unusual for a basaltic eruption. It is suggested that the basaltic magma was erupted and emplaced in a fashion commonly only attributed to felsic magmas because it utilized the felsic P1 magma chamber and its ring-fissure conduits. Evolution of the entire P1 eruption was controlled by withdrawal dynamics involving magmas differing in viscosity by more than four orders of magnitude. The basaltic eruption phase was initially driven by buoyancy of the basaltic magma at chamber depth and continued degassing of felsic magma, but most of the large volume of basalt magma was driven out of the reservoir by subsidence of a c. 10 km diameter roof block, which followed a decrease in magma chamber pressure during low viscosity basaltic outflow.

Key words

Basaltic ignimbriteLava-drop coalescenceWeldingPyroclastic fountainCaldera collapseGran Canaria

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Freundt
    • 1
  • H. -U. Schmincke
    • 1
  1. 1.Abt. Vulkanologie und Petrologie, GEOMARKielGermany