Bulletin of Volcanology

, 81:15 | Cite as

Paleomagnetic determination of the age and properties of the 1780–1800 AD dome effusion/collapse episode of Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand

  • Geoffrey A. LernerEmail author
  • Shane J. Cronin
  • Gillian M. Turner
  • Michael C. Rowe
Research Article


Understanding the timing and nature of effusion of lava in the summit regions of stratovolcanoes is important, because these volcanoes generate deadly and destructive block-and-ash flows (BAFs). The most recent eruption of Mt. Taranaki in New Zealand left a portion of a lava dome which now forms its 2518 m summit. In this study we demonstrate the value of applying paleomagnetic techniques to understand recent effusive episodes. By matching the direction of remanent magnetization of the dome lava with the regional paleomagnetic secular variation curve NZPSV1k, we estimate that this eruption occurred between AD1780 and 1800. The paleomagnetic signal and geochemistry show that the summit dome was part of a large lava coulee that spilled from a NW-breach in the crater, with other parts of this structure still remaining down slope (the “Turtle”). Paleomagnetic analyses were also used to reconstruct the thermal history of deposits formed by the dome/coulee collapse. Emplacement temperature estimates and groundmass textural data from the BAF deposit clasts show that the lava dome collapsed in multiple stages. A small, cooler portion of lower dome coulee collapsed first, before the progressively thicker and hotter parts of the central dome. The collapses generated BAFs which travelled up to 5 km from the source and maintained temperatures > 500 °C more than 2 km from the source.


Volcano Paleomagnetism Lava dome Pyroclastic flow Block-and-ash flow Taranaki 



The authors are extremely grateful to Elisa Piispa, Edgar Zorn, Jie Wu, Benjamin Simons, and Cristian Montanaro for assisting with multi-day sampling trips to Taranaki’s summit. The authors would like to thank Benjamin Andrews and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments that helped improve the quality of the paper.

Funding information

GL would like to thank AINSE Ltd. for providing financial assistance (Award—PGRA) to enable work on this project and to the George Mason Charitable Trust for providing financial assistance towards fieldwork. SJC is supported by the Natural Hazards Research Platform Project “Quantifying exposure to specific and multiple volcanic hazards”.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Volcanology & Chemistry of the Earth's Interior 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EnvironmentUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Chemical and Physical SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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