Compositional gradients in large reservoirs of silicic magma as evidenced by ignimbrites versus Taylor Creek Rhyolite lava domes

Wendell A. Duffield, Joaquin Ruiz

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30 Scopus citations


The Taylor Creek Rhyolite of southwest New Mexico consists of 20 lava domes and flows that were emplaced during a period of a few thousand years or less in late Oligocene time. Including genetically associated pyroclastic deposits, which are about as voluminous as the lava domes and flows, the Taylor Creek Rhyolite represents roughly 100 km3 of magma erupted from vents distributed throughout an area of several hundred square kilometers. Major-element composition is metaluminous to weakly peraluminous high-silica rhyolite and is nearly constant throughout the lava field. The magma reservoir for the Taylor Creek Rhyolite was vertically zoned in trace elements, 87Sr/86Sr, and phenocryst abundance and size. Mean trace-element concentrations, ranges in concentrations, and element-pair correlations are similar to many subalkaline silicic ignimbrites. However, the polarity of the zonation was opposite that in reservoirs for ignimbrites, for most constituents. For example, compared to the Bishop Tuff, only 87Sr/86Sr and Sc increased upward in both reservoirs. Quite likely, a dominant but nonerupted volume of the magma reservoir for the Taylor Creek Rhyolite was zoned like that for the Bishop Tuff, whereas an erupted, few-hundred-meter-thick cap on the magma body was variably contaminated by roof rocks whose contribution to this part of the magma system moderated relatively extreme trace-element concentrations of uncontaminated Taylor Creek Rhyolite but did not change the sense of correlation for most element pairs. The contaminant probably was a Precambrian rock of broadly granitic composition and with very high 87Sr/86Sr. Although examples apparently are not yet reported in the literature, evidence for a similar thin contaminated cap on reservoirs for large-volume silicic ignimbrites may exist in the bottom few meters of ignimbrites or perhaps only in the pumice fallout that normally immediately precedes ignimbrite emplacement. 87Sr/86Sr in sanidine phenocrysts of the Taylor Creek Rhyolite is higher than that of their host whole rocks. Covariation of this isotope ratio with sanidine abundance and size indicates positive correlations for all three features with decreasing distance to the roof of the magma reservoir. The sanidine probably is more radiogenic than host whole rock because growing phenocrysts partly incorporated Sr from the first partial melt of roof rocks, which contained the highly radiogenic Sr of Precambrian biotite ± hornblende, whereas diffusion was too slow for sanidine to incorporate much of the Sr from subsequently produced less radiogenic partial melt of roof rocks, before eruption quenched the magma system. Disequilibrium between feldspar phenocrysts and host groundmass is fairly common for ignimbrites, and a process of contamination similar to that for the Taylor Creek Rhyolite may help explain some of these situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-210
Number of pages19
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Apr 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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