The eruptive history and chemical stratigraphy of a post-caldera, steady-state volcano: Yasur, Vanuatu

Chris W. Firth, Heather K. Handley, Shane J. Cronin, Simon P. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The persistent activity of Yasur volcano, a post-caldera scoria cone in the southern Vanuatu Arc, along with the uniformity exhibited by its eruptive products, indicates that it is a "steady-state" volcano. This implies that rates of magma replenishment and tapping are in equilibrium. Examination of recently exposed tephra sequences suggests that Strombolian-style activity at Yasur has persisted in its current form for the last 630-850 years. Eruption of tephra with uniform grain size and texture throughout this period indicates invariant eruption magnitude and style. Based on tephra accumulation rates, a uniform, time-averaged eruption flux of ~410-480 m3 days-1 is estimated. Major and trace element analyses of glass shards and mineral grains from these tephra deposits show limited variation in magma composition throughout that time, consistent with a chemically buffered magma reservoir and models for steady-state volcanism. Similarly, mineral crystallisation temperature estimates are within error, suggesting the magma reservoir has retained a constant temperature through this time, while pressure estimates suggest shallow crystallisation. Eruptions appear to be driven by gas release, with small fluctuations in magma chemistry and eruptive behaviour governed by perturbations in volatile flux. This period of steady-state activity was preceded by ~600 years of higher-magnitude, lower-frequency eruptions during which less evolved compositions were erupted. Variation between these two styles of eruptive behaviour may be explained by a shift from a periodically closed to fully opened conduit, allowing more regular magma release and changes to degassing regimes. New radiocarbon ages suggest a period of irregular eruptive behaviour extending >1,400 year B.P. Overall, a transition from an irregular to a very steady magmatic system has occurred over the past ~2 kyr. Previously determined tectonic indicators for caldera resurgence in the area suggest revived magma replenishment after a hiatus following the caldera-forming Siwi eruption. This replenishment, while now supplying today's constant activity, has not yet manifested itself in variations in composition or style/magnitude of eruptions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number837
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Volume76
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

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