Sills of the San Rafael Volcanic Field, Utah
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Substantial populations, such as Mexico City, Auckland, and Portland, are built within or near monogenetic fields, so it is important to understand both eruption precursors and magma plumbing systems in such areas. Directly observing the plumbing systems of this rarely witnessed eruption style provides valuable insight into the nature of magmatic transport and storage within the shallow crust, as well as the associated monogenetic eruptive processes. Within the San Rafael Desert of Central Utah is an exposed Pliocene complex of approximately 2000 mapped dikes, 12 sills, and 60 conduits eroded to a depth of 800 m below the paleosurface. A combination of airborne LiDAR (ALS), provided by NCALM, and terrestrial LiDAR (TLS) surveys are used to map the dip of 5 major sills within a 35 sq km area. The ALS provides a 1 m aerial resolution of exposed volcanic features and the TLS gives vertical measurements to cm accuracy. From these data we determine that the 5-25 m thick sills in this area dip approximately 1 to 6 degrees. Field observations show that steps in sills and related fabrics indicate flow direction in sills during emplacement and that sills normally propagate down dip in the Entrada sandstone host rock away from apparent feeder dikes and conduits. Some sills have foundered roofs, especially near conduits, suggesting that nearly neutrally buoyant magmas emplaced into sills along bed partings in the Entrada, differentiated, and in some cases flowed back into conduits. By volume, at 800 m depth in the San Rafael, nearly all igneous rock (approximately 90 percent) is located in sills rather than in dikes or conduits. These observations are consistent with geochemical models that suggest differentiation in shallow sills explains geochemical trends observed in single monogenetic volcanoes in some active fields. Deformation associated with sill inflation and deflation may be a significant precursor to eruptive activity in monogenetic volcanic fields.