Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 505–519 | Cite as

Decoupled crystallization and eruption histories of the rhyolite magmatic system at Tarawera volcano revealed by zircon ages and growth rates

  • Sonja StormEmail author
  • Phil Shane
  • Axel K. Schmitt
  • Jan M. Lindsay
Original Paper


We obtained U–Th disequilibrium age data on zircons from each of the four rhyolite eruptions that built Tarawera volcano in the last 22 ka within the Okataina Volcanic Center (OVC), caldera, New Zealand. Secondary ion mass spectrometry analyses on unpolished euhedral crystal faces that lack resorption features show that crystal growth variously terminated from near-eruption age to ~100 ka prior to eruption. Age-depth profiling of crystals reveals long periods of continuous (~34 ka) and discontinuous growth (~90 ka). Growth hiatuses of up to ~40 ka duration occur, but do not all relate to obvious resorption surfaces. Age differences up to similar magnitude are found on opposing faces of some crystals suggesting episodes of partial exposure to melts. These features are best explained by periodic, complete, or partial, sub-solidus storage and/or inclusion in larger crystal phases, followed by rapid liberation prior to eruption. This is supported by high abundances of U and Th (~500 − >2,000 ppm) in some zircons consistent with periods of high crystallinity (>70%) in the magmatic system, based on crystal/melt partitioning. Contemporaneous but contrasting rim-ward trends of these elements within crystals, even in the same lava hand sample, require synchronous growth in separate melt bodies and little connectivity within the system, but also significant crystal transport and mixing prior to eruption. Many crystals record continuity of growth through the preceding ~60 ka OVC caldera-collapse and subsequent eruptions from Tarawera. This demonstrates a decoupling between eruption triggers, such as shallow crustal extension and mafic intrusion, and the crystallization state of the OVC silicic magmatic system. The data highlights the need to distinguish between the time for accumulation of eruptible magma and the long-term magma residence time based on the age of crystals with high closure temperatures, when assessing the potential for catastrophic eruptions.


Zircon Rhyolite U-series Tarawera volcano Magma residence time 



We thank Ganqing Xu for assistance with zircon extraction. Mary Reid and an anonymous reviewer provided valuable suggestions. SS was supported by a University of Auckland International Doctoral Scholarship, PS by a GNS Science subcontract, and JL by a Fellowship from the New Zealand Earthquake Commission. The ion microprobe facility at UCLA is partly supported by a grant from the Instrumentation and Facilities Program, Division of Earth Sciences, National Science Foundation.

Supplementary material

410_2011_682_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (615 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 614 kb)
410_2011_682_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (454 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 453 kb)
410_2011_682_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (106 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 106 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sonja Storm
    • 1
    Email author
  • Phil Shane
    • 1
  • Axel K. Schmitt
    • 2
  • Jan M. Lindsay
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EnvironmentUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Earth & Space SciencesUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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