Skip to main content
Log in

Palaeoenvironment reconstruction, volcanic evolution and geochronology of the Cerro Blanco subcomplex, Nevados de Chillán volcanic complex, central Chile

Bulletin of Volcanology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article


Nevados de Chillán Volcanic Complex, central Chile, has been active for at least 640 ka—a period spanning a number of glacial and interglacial periods. Geologic mapping, radiometric dating and geochemical analysis have identified six new volcanic units and produced four new 40Ar/39Ar ages for Cerro Blanco, the northern subcomplex of Nevados de Chillán volcano. Compositions range from dacite to basaltic-andesite and a new geologic map is presented. Examination of lava fracture structures on both newly mapped lavas and those mapped during previous studies has enabled interpretations of former eruptive environments. Palaeoenvironment reconstructions, combined with 40Ar/39Ar ages and comparison with the marine oxygen isotope record, show that at least three phases of volcanic activity have occurred during the evolution of Cerro Blanco: (1) a constructive, pre-caldera collapse period; (2) a period of caldera formation and collapse; and (3) a constructive period of dome growth forming the modern day volcanic centre. This style of volcanic evolution, whereby large-scale caldera collapse is followed by growth of a new stratocone is common at Andean volcanoes.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13


  • Broecker WS, Denton GH (1990) What drives glacial cycles? Sci Am 262:42–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cas RAF, Wright JV (1987) Volcanic successions—modern and ancient. Allen & Unwin, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Clavero JE, Sparks SJ, Polanco E, Pringle MS (2004) Evolution of Parinacota volcano, Central Andes, Northern Chile. Rev Geol Chile 31(2):317–347

    Google Scholar 

  • DeGraff JM, Long PE, Aydin A (1989) Use of joint-growth directions and rock textures to infer thermal regimes during solidification of basaltic lava flows. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 38:309–324

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Déreulle B, Déreulle J (1974) Los volcanes Cuaternarios de los Nevados de Chillán y reseña sobre el volcanismo Cuaternario de los Andes Chilenos. Estud Geol 30:91–108

    Google Scholar 

  • Dixon HJ, Murphy MD, Sparks RSJ, Chávez R, Naranjo JA, Dunkley PN, Young SR, Gilbert JS, Pringle MR (1999) The geology of Nevados de Chillán volcano, Chile. Rev Geol Chile 26(2):227–253

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert JS, Stasiuk MV, Lane SJ, Adam CR, Murphy MD, Sparks RSJ, Naranjo JA (1996) Non-explosive, constructional evolution of the ice-filled caldera at Volcán Sollipulli, Chile. Bull Volcanol 58:67–83

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harford CL, Pringle MS, Sparks RSJ, Young SR (2002) The volcanic evolution of Montserrat using 40Ar/39Ar geochronology. In: Druitt TH and Kokelaar BP (eds) The eruption of Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat, from 1995 to 1999. Geol Soc London Mem 21:93–113. The Geological Society of London 2002

  • Lescinsky DT, Fink JH (2000) Lava and ice interaction at stratovolcanoes: use of characteristic features to determine past glacial extents and future volcanic hazards. J Geophys Res 105(B10):23711–23726

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lescinsky DT, Sisson TW (1998) Ridge-forming, ice-bounded lava flows at Mount Rainier, Washington. Geology 26(4):351–354

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lowe JJ, Walker MJC (1997) Reconstructing quaternary environments, 2nd edn. Pearson Prentice Hall, England

    Google Scholar 

  • Lowell TV, Heusser CJ, Andersen BG, Moreno PI, Hauser A, Heusser LE, Schlüchter C, Marchant DR, Denton GH (1995) Interhemispheric correlation of late pleistocene glacial events. Science 269(5230):1541–1549

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mee K, Tuffen H, Gilbert JS (2006) Snow-contact volcanic facies and their use in determining past eruptive environments at Nevados de Chillán volcano, Chile. Bull Volcanol 68:363–376

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Naranjo JA, Lara LE (2004) August–September 2003 small vulcanian eruption at the Nevados de Chillán Volcanic Complex (36°50′S), Southern Andes, Chile. Rev Geol Chile 31(2):359–366

    Google Scholar 

  • Naranjo JA, Sparks RSJ, Stasiuk MV, Moreno H, Ablay GJ (1992) Morphological, structural and textural variations in the 1988–1990 andesite lava of Lonquimay Volcano, Chile (38°S). Geol Mag 129:657–678

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Naranjo JA, Chávez R, Sparks RSJ, Gilbert JS, Dunkley P (1994) Nuevos antecedentes sobre la evolución cuaternaria del complejo volcánico Nevados de Chillán. Congreso Geológico Chileno 7, Concepción, Chile, 1:342–345

    Google Scholar 

  • Pringle MS (1993) Age progressive volcanism in the musicians seamounts: a test of the hot spot hypothesis for the Late Cretaceous Pacific. In: Pringle MS, Sager WW, Sliter VW, Stein S (eds) The mesozoic pacific: geology, tectonics and volcanism. AGU Geophysical Monograph Series 77:187–215

  • Singer BS, Pringle MS (1996) Age and duration of the Matuyama-Brunhes geomagnetic polarity reversal from 40Ar/39Ar incremental heating analyses of lavas. Earth Planet Sci Lett 139:47–61

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singer BS, Jicha BR, Harper MA, Naranjo JA, Lara LE, Moreno-Roa H (2008) Eruptive history, geochronology and magmatic evolution of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex, Chile. Geol Soc Am Bull 120(5–6):599–618

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sumner JM, Branney MJ (2002) The emplacement history of a remarkable heterogeneous, chemically zoned, rheomorphic and locally lava-like ignimbrite: ‘TL’ on Gran Canaria. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 115(1–2):109–138

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Taylor JR (1982) An introduction to error analysis. University Science Books, Mill Valley, California

    Google Scholar 

  • Thouret JC, Cantagrel J-M, Robin C, Murcia A, Salinas R, Cepeda H (1995) Quaternary eruptive history and hazard-zone model at Nevado del Tolima and Cerro Machin volcanoes, Colombia. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 66(1–4):397–426

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tuffen H, Gilbert JS, McGarvie DW (2001) Products of an effusive subglacial eruption: Bláhnúkur, Torfajökull, Iceland. Bull Volcanol 63:179–190

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tuffen H, McGarvie DW, Gilbert JS, Pinkerton H (2002a) Physical volcanology of a subglacial-to-emergent rhyolitic tuya at Rauðufossafjöll, Torfajökull, Iceland. In: Smellie JL, Chapman MG (eds) Volcano–ice interaction on Earth and Mars. Geol Soc London Spec Pub 202:213–236

  • Tuffen H, Pinkerton H, McGarvie DW, Gilbert JS (2002b) Melting of a glacier base during a small-volume subglacial rhyolite eruption: evidence from Bláhnúkur, Iceland. Sediment Geol 149:183–198

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • York D (1969) Least squares fitting of a straight line with correlated errors. Earth Planet Sci Lett 5:320–324

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to thank Hugh Tuffen and Mike James for their valuable contributions in the field, along with Holly Frey and Charles Stern for their thorough reviews, all of which have considerably improved this manuscript. KM was funded by a NERC Studentship; JSG acknowledges receipt of a 2001 Lancaster University Small Grant; DM received support from the OU Science Staff Tutor research fund; and JAN would like to thank Sernageomin’s PRV and Fondecyt Project No. 1960186.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Katy Mee.

Additional information

Editorial responsibility: H. Delgado Granados.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mee, K., Gilbert, J.S., McGarvie, D.W. et al. Palaeoenvironment reconstruction, volcanic evolution and geochronology of the Cerro Blanco subcomplex, Nevados de Chillán volcanic complex, central Chile. Bull Volcanol 71, 933–952 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: