Cumulate Fragments in Silicic Ignimbrites
Friday, 19 December 2014
Increasingly, studies are concluding that silicic ignimbrites are the result of the amalgamation of multiple discrete magma batches. Yet the existence of discrete batches presents a conundrum for magma generation and storage; if silicic magma batches are not generated nearly in situ in the upper crust, they must traverse, and reside within, a thermally hostile environment with large temperature gradients, resulting in low survivability in their shallow magmatic hearths. The Snake River Plain (Idaho, USA) is a type example of this ‘multi-batch’ assembly with ignimbrites containing multiple populations of pyroxene crystals, glass shards, and crystal aggregates. The ubiquitous crystal aggregates hint at a mechanism to facilitate the existence of multiple, relatively small batches of rhyolite in the upper crust. These aggregates contain the same plagioclase, pyroxene, and oxide mineral compositions as single phenocrysts of the same minerals in their host rocks, but they have significantly less silicic bulk compositions and lack quartz and sanidine, which occur as single phenocrysts in the deposits. This implies significant crystallization followed by melt extraction from mushy reservoir margins. The extracted melt then continues to evolve (crystallizing sanidine and quartz) while the melt-depleted margins provide an increasingly rigid and refractory network segregating the crystal-poor batches of magma. The hot, refractory, margins insulate the crystal-poor lenses, allowing (1) extended residence in the upper crust, and (2) preservation of chemical heterogeneities among batches. In contrast, systems that produce cumulates richer in low-temperature phases (quartz, K-feldspars, and/or biotite) favour remelting upon recharge, leading to less segregation of eruptible melt pockets and the formation of gradationally zoned ignimbrites. The occurrence of similar crystal aggregates from a variety of magmatic lineages suggests the generality of this process.