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New insights into the evolution of the magmatic system of a composite andesite volcano revealed by clasts from distal mass-flow deposits: Ruapehu volcano, New Zealand


Stratovolcanoes characteristically build large composite edifices over long periods with stacked lavas intercalated with pyroclastic deposits. In most cases, only the most recent volcanic products are exposed on the flanks of the volcano, and consequently the search for deposits recording an older eruptive and magmatic history is typically focussed far from the cone, within distal tephra deposits. Clasts within lahar and debris avalanche deposits may also provide unique insights into the earliest eruptive and magmatic history of long-lived volcanoes, especially when widespread fallout is absent. Careful sampling and subsequent petrological and geochemical analyses of lava and pumice clasts from six distal mass-flow deposit sequences (hyperconcentrated flow, debris flows and debris avalanche deposits) from Mt. Ruapehu (New Zealand), combined with detailed stratigraphic studies and radiometric age dating, give new perspectives on the pre-50 ka magmatic system of this complex volcano. A conglomerate emplaced between 340 and 310 ka contains evidence for the oldest episode of Mt. Ruapehu volcanism, and unusually for the composite cone, pumice clasts from this unit contain amphibole-bearing xenoliths. Chemical and petrological data for these oldest Ruapehu clasts indicate that a deep (∼40 km) crustal storage system had already developed under Mt. Ruapehu before ∼340 ka. From the very earliest stages, evolution was largely controlled by magma mixing, along with decoupled assimilation and fractional crystallization within numerous isolated small-scale magma batches stored throughout the crust. From around 340 to 160 ka, there was a progressive shift towards more primitive compositions, suggesting that during this period large-scale replenishment events involving mantle-derived basaltic magmas occurred within the mid- to upper crustal storage system. Subsequent magmas became progressively more evolved due to decoupled fractional crystallization and assimilation processes accompanied by magma recharge events, which triggered major phases of eruptive activity.

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Manuela Tost was supported by a Massey University Doctoral Scholarship and a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship. This work is supported by the New Zealand Natural Hazards Research Platform contract “Living with Volcanic Risk” to PI Cronin. We thank Mr Jeff Williams and Mr Rex Martin, along with other farmers for access to their land. We further thank Mr Gordon Holm for the thin section preparation, Mr Jon Wilmshurst for XRF analyses, Dr Anja Moebis for assistance during sample preparation and Dr John Procter for assistance during field studies. We also appreciate useful discussions with Dr Robert Stewart and Dr Alan Palmer regarding the Turakina deposits, and very helpful comments from Dr Adam Martin on an earlier version of this manuscript. We are grateful for the thorough and constructive comments from Dr Steffen Kutterolf, Dr Vern Manville, Prof Vadim Kamenetsky and an anonymous reviewer.

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Tost, M., Price, R.C., Cronin, S.J. et al. New insights into the evolution of the magmatic system of a composite andesite volcano revealed by clasts from distal mass-flow deposits: Ruapehu volcano, New Zealand. Bull Volcanol 78, 38 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-016-1030-7

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  • Eruptive activity
  • Basaltic magmas
  • Mt. Ruapehu
  • Mass-flow deposits