The Whakamaru magmatic system (Taupō Volcanic Zone, New Zealand), part 1: Evidence from tephra deposits for the eruption of multiple magma types through time

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


The Whakamaru group eruptions (349 ± 4 ka; Downs et al., 2014) are the largest known eruptions in the history of the young Taupō Volcanic Zone, Aotearoa New Zealand. The complex field relationships of the ignimbrites have thus far obscured the timing and history of their eruption(s). We present new evidence from fall deposits correlated with the Whakamaru eruptions to complement the ignimbrite record. Two coastal sections are characterized in detail. We group the tephra horizons into three packages: the older, smaller Tablelands and Paerata tephras; the overlying Kohioawa tephras (correlated with Whakamaru group eruptions); and the younger Murupara and Bonisch tephras. Major- and trace-element compositions suggest these tephras represent six distinct high-silica magma types, with the Kohioawa tephras representing three distinct magma compositions that are atypical of the TVZ. The distribution of Kohioawa magma types (types A, B, and C) changes through time, with the oldest deposits containing exclusively type A magma, the middle deposits containing types A and B, and the youngest deposits containing all three Kohioawa types. A combination of horizon-scale mineralogy and rhyolite-MELTS modeling suggests that only Kohioawa types B and C are saturated in sanidine – the presence of sanidine is atypical in Taupō Volcanic Zone magmas but has been previously documented in the Whakamaru group ignimbrites. Rhyolite-MELTS geobarometry reveals shallow storage pressures (∼50–150 MPa) for Kohioawa magmas. At least three different melt-dominated magma bodies sourced the Kohioawa tephras – these magma bodies were laterally juxtaposed and co-erupted for most of the Whakamaru eruptions. Magmas that preceded and post-dated the Whakamaru eruptions have more typical TVZ compositions, emphasizing the unique features of the Whakamaru system.

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research