Rhyolite magma processes of the ∼AD 1315 Kaharoa eruption episode, Tarawera volcano, New Zealand

I. A. Nairn, P. R. Shane, J. W. Cole, G. J. Leonard, S. Self, N Pearson

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    Products of the ∼5 km3 (DRE), ∼5-yr duration Kaharoa eruption episode display two main high-silica rhyolite compositions; T1 erupted early (as plinian pyroclastics), and T2 erupted late (mostly as lavas). The T1 and T2 eruptive types are defined by crystal contents and compositional variations in whole rock, glass, plagioclase and biotite. Stratigraphically intermediate pyroclastic deposits have an intermediate composition (T1+2). A small volume of rhyodacite pyroclastics, mingled with injected basalt, was also erupted. The Kaharoa rhyolites were erupted from multiple sources spread along an 8-km linear vent zone, but the changes in eruptive compositions were largely controlled by position in the eruption sequence and magma discharge rates, rather than vent locations. Data from the Kaharoa eruptive types, vent locations, eruption sequence and discharge rates can be combined with concepts of magma chamber evacuation processes to produce a preliminary dimensional model of the pre-eruption rhyolite magma body. Our model magma body is sill-like, ∼8 km long, 1 km wide, 1.4 km thick, and located at ∼6-7 km depth in the upper crust. T1 magma overlay T2 magma in the upper levels of the chamber, with each magma layer internally mixed to a homogeneous composition along an axial extent defined by the vent locations. An underlying third rhyolite magma (T3) is recognised as the silicic end-member that was modified by basalt to form the rhyodacite eruptives. The rhyolite magma stratification survived multiple injections of basalt magma, which primed and finally triggered the Kaharoa eruptions. The T1+2 eruptives resulted from syn-eruption mingling in the conduit of the two main rhyolite magma types. Thickness of the T1 layer in the model can be estimated at 0.25 km; the T2 layer was somewhat thicker. Thicknesses of the underlying T3 and basalt layers are uncertain. Post-eruption geothermal heat flow indicates a residual magma volume of ≥6 km3, suggesting that the pre-eruption magma volume was ≥11 km3.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)265-294
    Number of pages30
    JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2004


    • Dimensional model
    • Kaharoa eruption
    • Magmatic processes
    • Rhyolite


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