Magma storage and evolution of the most recent effusive and explosive eruptions from Yellowstone Caldera

Abstract

Between 70 and 175 ka, over 350 km3 of high-silica rhyolite magma erupted both effusively and explosively from within the Yellowstone Caldera. Phenocrysts in all studied lavas and tuffs are remarkably homogenous at the crystal, eruption, and caldera-scale, and yield QUILF temperatures of 750 ± 25 °C. Phase equilibrium experiments replicate the observed phenocryst assemblage at those temperatures and suggest that the magmas were all stored in the upper crust. Quartz-hosted glass inclusions contain 1.0–2.5 % H2O and 50–600 ppm CO2, but some units are relatively rich in CO2 (300–600 ppm) and some are CO2-poor (50–200 ppm). The CO2-rich magmas were stored at 90–150 MPa and contained a fluid that was 60–75 mol% CO2. CO2-poor magmas were stored at 50–70 MPa, with a more H2O-rich fluid (\(X_{{{\text{CO}}_{2} }}\) = 40–60 %). Storage pressures and volatiles do not correlate with eruption age, volume, or style. Trace-element contents in glass inclusions and host matrix glass preserve a systematic evolution produced by crystal fractionation, estimated to range from 36 ± 12 to 52 ± 12 wt%. Because the erupted products contain <10 wt% crystals, crystal-poor melts likely separated from evolving crystal-rich mushes prior to eruption. In the Tuffs of Bluff Point and Cold Mountain Creek, matrix glass is less evolved than most inclusions, which may indicate that more primitive rhyolite was injected into the reservoir just before those eruptions. The presence and dissolution of granophyre in one flow may record evidence for heating prior to eruption and also demonstrate that the Yellowstone magmatic system may undergo rapid changes. The variations in depth suggest the magmas were sourced from multiple chambers that follow similar evolutionary paths in the upper crust.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Robert Zinke, Matt Williams, Ryan Cahalan, Kevin Befus, Tim Prather, Jake Jordan, Brent Jackson, Gail Mahood and Jim Watkins for scientific conversations and their assistance in the field. We also thank Renat Almeev, Mark Stelten, Jorge Vazquez, Kathryn Watts, and 3 anonymous reviewers for helpful reviews. Nathan Miller operated the LA-ICP-MS and helped process the trace-element data. This research was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (EAR-1049829) to J.E.G and a National Park Service research permit (YELL-05678).

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Correspondence to Kenneth S. Befus.

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Communicated by Gordon Moore.

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Befus, K.S., Gardner, J.E. Magma storage and evolution of the most recent effusive and explosive eruptions from Yellowstone Caldera. Contrib Mineral Petrol 171, 30 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00410-016-1244-x

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Keywords

  • Rhyolite
  • Obsidian
  • Yellowstone
  • Experimental petrology
  • Granophyre