Basaltic Lava Flow vs. Welded Basaltic Ignimbrite: Determining the Depositional Nature of a Volcanic Flow in the Akaroa Volcanic Complex

Monday, 15 December 2014
Emily Anne Sexton, Washington University in St Louis, St. Louis, MO, United States and Samuel Hampton, University of Canterbury, Department of Geological Sciences, Christchurch, New Zealand; Frontiers Abroad Aotearoa, Christchurch, New Zealand
Welded basaltic ignimbrites are one of the rarest forms of ignimbrites found on Earth and can often have characteristics that are indistinguishable from those of basaltic lava flows. This study evaluates a basaltic volcanic flow in a coastal cliff sequence in Raupo Bay, Akaroa Volcanic Complex, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand. The Raupo Bay coastal cliff sequence is comprised of 4 units, termed L1, L2, L3, and A, capped by loess. L1 and L2 are basaltic lavas, L3 proximal scoria deposits, which thin inland, and Unit A, a flow with unusual characteristics, which is the focus of this study. Field mapping, sampling, geochemical analysis and petrology were utilized to characterize units. Further detailed structural analysis of Unit A was completed, to determine the nature of the basal contact, variations in welding throughout the unit and the relationship of the layer to the underlying topography. From these analyses it was found: Unit A is thickest in a paleo-valley and thins and mantles higher topography, welding in the unit increases downwards forming topographic controlled columnar jointing, the top of the unit is brecciated and grades into the lower welded/jointed portion, the basal contact is sharp overlying a regional airfall deposit, the unit has a notably distinct geochemical composition from the underlying stratigraphic units, Unit A contains flattened and sheared scoria clasts, has aligned bubbles, and lava lithics. Further thin section analysis of Unit A identified flattened clast boundaries and microlite rimming around phenocrysts. In comparing these features to previous studies on basaltic lavas and ignimbrites it is hypothesized that Unit A is a welded basaltic ignimbrite that was channelized by paleo-topography on the outer flanks of the Akaroa Volcanic Complex. This study furthers the characterization of basaltic ignimbrites and is the first to recognize basaltic ignimbrites within the Akaroa Volcanic Complex.