Roof-rock contamination of magma along the top of the reservoir for the Bishop Tuff

Wendell A. Duffield, Joaquin Ruiz, James D. Webster

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24 Scopus citations


The Bishop Tuff, a well known Quaternary high-silica rhyolite in east-central California, is widely considered the type example of a vertically and monotonically zoned pyroclastic deposit that represents zoning in the source magma reservoir, inverted during the process of pyroclastic emplacement. However, the deposit of plinian pumice, which forms the base of the Bishop Tuff and represents the initial 10% or so of all magma erupted during the event that produced the Bishop Tuff, contains features at odds with monotonie zoning for the reservoir. Relative to overlying ignimbrite, the plinian deposit contains a reversal in trace-element zoning. Moreover, the 87Sr 86Sr is significantly higher than that in overlying ignimbrite (about 0.7084 vs 0.7064), and melt inclusions trapped in quartz phenocrysts exhibit notable variability of trace-element concentrations, even within a single host crystal (e.g., U: 10.77 to 8.91 ppm). These data have been previously interpreted as due to processes of chemical fractionation and evolution operating within a magma system closed to chemical interactions with its roof rocks. For example, the reversal in trace-element zoning has been explained by the first-erupted magma being erupted from somewhat below the top of a monotonically zoned reservoir. However, we submit that the reversed zoning and other above-noted features can be explained equally well as consequences of minor assimilation of roof rocks into a magma reservoir that was erupted from the top down. The basal part of the Bishop Tuff exhibits extreme concentrations and depletions of trace elements, relative to the average composition of crustal rocks. For example, the upward decrease of Sr in the Bishop magma reservoir (downward decrease in the ignimbrite) results in concentrations as low as 2-4 ppm. Because of the attendant 'chemical leverage', assimilation of < 1 wt.% of Sierra Nevada batholith rocks typical of the area could readily reverse an 'uncontaminated' Sr (and other trace elements) trend of zoning and could also substantially raise 87Sr 86Sr. Small-scale trace-element variability in the uppermost part of the Bishop magma reservoir, as recorded by the above-mentioned melt inclusions, may simply reflect melt heterogeneity produced by the process of assimilation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-195
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 30 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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