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Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 73, Issue 10, pp 1455–1486 | Cite as

Geochemical homogeneity of a long-lived, large silicic system; evidence from the Cerro Galán caldera, NW Argentina

  • Chris B. Folkes
  • Shanaka L. de Silva
  • Heather M. Wright
  • Raymond A. F. Cas
Research Article

Abstract

By applying a number of analytical techniques across a spectrum of spatial scales (centimeter to micrometer) in juvenile components, we show that the Cerro Galán volcanic system has repeatedly erupted magmas with nearly identical geochemistries over >3.5 Myr. The Cerro Galán system produced nine ignimbrites (∼5.6 to 2 Ma) with a cumulative volume of >1,200 km3 (DRE; dense rock equivalent) of calc-alkaline, high-K rhyodacitic magmas (68–71 wt.% SiO2). The mineralogy is broadly constant throughout the eruptive sequence, comprising plagioclase, quartz, biotite, Fe–Ti oxides, apatite, and titanite. Early ignimbrite magmas also contained amphibole, while the final eruption, the most voluminous Cerro Galán ignimbrite (CGI; 2.08 ± 0.02 Ma) erupted a magma containing rare amphibole, but significant sanidine. Each ignimbrite contains two main juvenile clast types; dominant “white” pumice and ubiquitous but subordinate “grey” pumice. Fe–Ti oxide and amphibole-plagioclase thermometry coupled with amphibole barometry suggest that the grey pumice originated from potentially hotter and deeper magmas (800–840°C, 3–5 kbar) than the more voluminous white pumice (770–810°C, 1.5–2.5 kbar). The grey pumice is interpreted to represent the parental magmas to the Galán system emplaced into the upper crust from a deeper storage zone. Most inter-ignimbrite variations can be accounted for by differences in modal mineralogy and crystal contents that vary from 40 to 55 vol.% on a vesicle-free basis. Geochemical modeling shows that subtle bulk-rock variations in Ta, Y, Nb, Dy, and Yb between the Galán ignimbrites can be reconciled with differences in amounts of crystal fractionation from the “grey” parent magma. The amount of fractionation is inversely correlated with volume; the CGI (∼630 km3) and Real Grande Ignimbrite (∼390 km3) return higher F values (proportion of liquid remaining) than the older Toconquis Group ignimbrites (<50 km3), implying less crystal fractionation took place during the upper-crustal evolution of these larger volume magmas. We attribute this relationship to variations in magma chamber geometry; the younger, largest volume ignimbrites came from flat sill-like magma chambers, reducing the relative proportion of sidewall crystallization and fractionation compared to the older, smaller-volume ignimbrite eruptions. The grey pumice clasts also show evidence of silicic recharge throughout the history of the Cerro Galán system, and recharge days prior to eruption has previously been suggested based on reversely zoned (OH and Cl) apatite phenocrysts. A rare population of plagioclase phenocrysts with thin An-rich rims in juvenile clasts in many ignimbrites supports the importance of recharge in the evolution and potential triggering of eruptions. This study extends the notion that large volumes of nearly identical silicic magmas can be generated repeatedly, producing prolonged geochemical homogeneity from a long-lived magma source in a subduction zone volcanic setting. At Cerro Galán, we propose that there is a zone between mantle magma input and upper crustal chambers, where magmas are geochemically “buffered”, producing the underlying geochemical and isotopic signatures. This produces the same parental magmas that are delivered repeatedly to the upper crust. A lower-crustal MASH (melting, assimilation, storage, and homogenization) zone is proposed to act as this buffer zone. Subsequent upper crustal magmatic processes serve only to slightly modify the geochemistry of the magmas.

Keywords

Ignimbrites Central Andes Crystal-rich rhyodacite Fractionation Magma chamber 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Program Grant DP0663560 to the research team led by R. Cas. Partial support for this work came from NSF grant EAR 0710545 to S. de Silva that is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Monash University, Oregon State University and Salta University, Argentina for access to the various facilities required to undertake this research. Journal reviews from Olivier Bachmann and Eric Christiansen and suggestions from the editors for this special issue helped to improve this manuscript.

Supplementary material

445_2011_511_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (363 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 362 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris B. Folkes
    • 1
  • Shanaka L. de Silva
    • 2
  • Heather M. Wright
    • 1
  • Raymond A. F. Cas
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Geosciences, Building 28Monash UniversityVictoriaAustralia
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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