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Volcanic geology and eruption frequency, São Miguel, Azores

Abstract

Six volcanic zones comprise São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores. All are Quaternary in age except the last, which is partly Pliocene. From west to east the zones are (1) the trachyte stratovolcano of Sete Cidades, (2) a field of alkali-basalt cinder cones and lava flows with minor trachyte, (3) the trachyte stratovolcano of Agua de Pau, (4) a field of alkali-basalt cinder cones and lava flows with minor trachyte and tristanite, (5) the trachyte stratovolcano of Furnas, and (6) the Nordeste shield, which includes the Povoação caldera and consists of alkali basalt, tristanite, and trachyte. New radiocarbon and K-Ar ages augment stratigraphic data obtained during recent geologic mapping of the entire island and provide improved data to interpret eruption frequency. Average dormant intervals for the past approximately 3000 years in the areas active during that time are about 400 years for Sete Cidades, 145 for zone 2, 1150 for Agua de Pau, and 370 for Furnas. However, the average dormant interval at Sete Cidades increased from 400 to about 680 years before each of the past two eruptions, and the interval at Furnas decreased from 370 to about 195 years before each of the past four eruptions. Eruptions in zone 4 occurred about once every 1000 years during latest Pleistocene and early Holocene time; none has occurred for about 3000 years. The Povoação caldera truncates part of the Nordeste shield and probably formed during the middle to late Pleistocene. Calderas formed during latest Pleistocene time at the three younger stratovolcanoes in the sequence: outer Agua de Pau (between 46 and 26.5 ka), Sete Cidades (about 22 ka), inner Agua de Pau (15.2 ka), and Furnas (about 12 ka). Normal faults are common, but many are buried by Holocene trachyte pumice. Most faults trend northwest or west-northwest and are related to the Terceira rift, whose most active segment on São Miguel passes through Sete Cidades and zone 2. A major normal fault displaces Nordeste lavas 150–250 m and may mark the location of an ancestral Terceira rift. Recent seismicity (e.g., in the 1980s) generally has been scattered, but some small earthquake swarms have occurred beneath the north-eastern flank of Agua de Pau.

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Moore, R.B. Volcanic geology and eruption frequency, São Miguel, Azores. Bull Volcanol 52, 602–614 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00301211

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Keywords

  • Holocene
  • Pliocene
  • Normal Fault
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Earthquake Swarm