Evidence of a complex shallow reservoir network from micro-textural observations of the scoria products of the 1085 AD Sunset Crater eruption
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Sunset Crater volcano is the youngest scoria cone of the San Francisco Volcanic Field (SFVF). The >300-m-high Sunset Crater, located ~25 km northeast of Flagstaff, erupted about 1085 AD and is a remarkable example of a highly explosive basaltic eruption. The explosive activity produced a tephra sequence of at least eight main fall units associated with major explosive phases. The total cumulative volume is ~0.3 km3 DRE. The volume of individual fall units varies between 0.02 and 0.08 km3 DRE, and an associated column height was up to 20 km high. The products have uniform chemical composition (~47 wt.% SiO2), with phenocrysts of plagioclase, olivine and pyroxene that represent about the 6 vol% of the samples. Despite the uniform chemical and crystal-phase characteristics of the products, the textures are very heterogeneous. Two textural endmembers, intimately intermingled at the mm-scale within a single clast, were identified: one endmember (sideromelane) is characterized by higher vesicularity (~66%), with large regular sub-spherical vesicles (modal diameter 0.6 mm), a glass-rich groundmass (> 95 vol%) and evidence of post-fragmentation vesicle expansion; the second endmember texture (tachylite) is characterized by lower vesicularity (~32%), with small highly irregular vesicles (modal diameter 0.3 mm) that result in a higher vesicle number density than the sideromelane, and a groundmass rich in microcrysts (> 95 vol%), mainly Fe-oxides. Textural characteristics suggest interaction between magmas stored at different depths. The tachylitic texture is present in different proportions in the products of the different eruptive phases, while some small-scale variability seems to suggest variation in the crystallization conditions. However, given the uniform phenocryst composition, these small-scale variations are probably due to differences in the residence time rather than to different storage depths. As a result, our observations suggest the temporary storage of portions of the erupted magma in a complex fracture network or conduit system located at very shallow levels (and possibly within the cone) where the magma could degas and crystallize, producing the observed tachylitic texture. These processes also caused an increase in magma viscosity, likely enhancing eruption explosivity.