Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 164, Issue 3, pp 407–426 | Cite as

Peralkaline magma evolution and the tephra record in the Ethiopian Rift

  • Tyrone O. RooneyEmail author
  • William K. Hart
  • Chris M. Hall
  • Dereje Ayalew
  • Mark S. Ghiorso
  • Paulo Hidalgo
  • Gezahegn Yirgu
Original Paper


The 3.119 ± 0.010 Ma Chefe Donsa phreatomagmatic deposits on the shoulder of the Ethiopian Rift mark the northern termination of the Silti-Debre Zeyit Fault Zone, a linear zone of focused extension within the modern Ethiopian Rift. These peralkaline pumice fragments and glass shards span a wide range of glass compositions but have a restricted phenocryst assemblage dominated by unzoned sanidine. Glass shards found within the ash occupy a far more limited compositional range (75–76 wt% SiO2) in comparison with the pumice (64–75 wt% SiO2), which is rarely mingled. Thermodynamic modeling shows that liquids broadly similar to the least evolved glass composition can be achieved with 50–60 % fractionation of moderately crustally contaminated basalt. Inconsistencies between modeled solutions and the observed values of CaO and P2O5 highlight the important role of fluorine in stabilizing fluor-apatite and the limitations of current thermodynamic models largely resulting from the scarce experimental data available for the role of fluorine in igneous phase stability. On the basis of limited feldspar heterogeneity and crystal content of pumice at Chefe Donsa, and the difficulties of extracting small volumes of Si-rich melt in classical fractional crystallization models, we suggest a two-step polybaric process: (1) basaltic magma ponds at mid-upper-crustal depths and fractionates to form a crystal/magma mush. Once this mush has reached 50–60 % crystallinity, the interstitial liquid may be extracted from the rigid crystal framework. The trachytic magma extracted at this step is equivalent to the most primitive pumice analyzed at Chefe Donsa. (2) The extracted trachytic liquid will rise and continue to crystallize, generating a second mush zone from which rhyolite liquids may be extracted. Some of the compositional range observed in the Chefe Donsa deposits may result from the fresh intrusion of trachyte magma, which may also provide an eruption trigger. This model may have wider application in understanding the origin of the Daly Gap in Ethiopian magmas—intermediate liquids may not be extracted from crystal-liquid mushes due to insufficient crystallization to yield a rigid framework. The wide range of glass compositions characteristic of the proximal Chefe Donsa deposits is not recorded in temporally equivalent tephra deposits located in regional depocenters. Our results show that glass shards, which represent the material most likely transported to distal depocenters, occupy a limited compositional range at high SiO2 values and overlap some distal tephra deposits. These results suggest that distal tephra deposits may not faithfully record the potentially wide range in magma compositions present in a magmatic system just prior to eruption and that robust distal–proximal tephra correlations must include a careful analysis of the full range of materials in the proximal deposit.


East African Rift Ethiopia Peralkaline Tephra MELTS 



Thoughtful comments by Olivier Bachmann and an anonymous reviewer helped improve the manuscript. We thank Timothy Grove for careful editorial handling and helpful suggestions.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tyrone O. Rooney
    • 1
    Email author
  • William K. Hart
    • 2
  • Chris M. Hall
    • 3
  • Dereje Ayalew
    • 4
  • Mark S. Ghiorso
    • 5
  • Paulo Hidalgo
    • 1
  • Gezahegn Yirgu
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geology & Environmental Earth ScienceMiami UniversityOxfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of Earth SciencesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  5. 5.OFM ResearchSeattleUSA

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