Effusive silicic volcanism in the Central Andes: The Chao dacite and other young lavas of the Altiplano-Puna Volcanic Complex Public Deposited

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  • The largest known Quaternary silicic lava body in the world is Cerro Chao in north Chile, a 14-km-long coulée with a volume of at least 26 km³. It is the largest of a group of several closely similar dacitic lavas erupted during a recent (< 100,000 year old) magmatic episode in the Altiplano-Puna Volcanic Complex (APVC; 21-24°S) of the Central Andean Volcanic Zone. The eruption of Chao proceeded in three phases. Phase 1 was explosive and produced ∼1 km³ of coarse, nonwelded dacitic pumice deposits and later block and ash flows that form an apron in front of the main lava body. Phase 2 was dominantly effusive and erupted ∼22.5 km³ of magma in the form of a composite couleé covering ∼53 km² with a 400-m-high flow front and a small cone of poorly expanded pumice around the vent. The lava is homogeneous with rare flow banding and vesicular tops and selvages. Ogives (flow ridges) reaching heights of 30 m form prominent features on its surface. Phase 3 produced a 6-km-long, 3-km-wide flow that emanated from a collapsed dome. Ogives are subdued, and the lava is glassier than that produced in previous phases. All the Chao products are crystal-rich high-K dacites and rhyodacites with phenocrysts of plagioclase, quartz, hornblende, biotite, sphene, rare sanidine, and oxides. Phenocryst contents reach 40–60 vol % (vesicle free) in the main phase 2 lavas but are lower in the phase 1 (20–25%) and phase 3 (∼40%) lavas. Ovoid andesitic inclusions with vesicular interiors and chilled margins up to 10 cm are found in the later stages of phase 2 and compose up to 5% of the phase 3 lava. There is little evidence for preemptive zonation of the magma body in composition, temperature (∼840°C), fO₂ (10⁻¹¹), or water content, so we propose that eruption of the Chao complex was driven by intrusion of fresh, hot andesitic magma into a crystallizing and largely homogeneous body of dacitic magma. Morphological measurements suggest that the Chao lavas had internal plastic viscosities of 10¹⁰ to 10¹²Pa s, apparent viscosities of 10⁹ Pa s, surface viscosities of 10¹⁵ to 10²⁴ Pa s, and a yield strength of 8 × 10⁵ Pa. These estimates indicate that Chao would have exhibited largely similar rheological properties to other silicic lava extrusions, notwithstanding its high phenocryst content. We suggest that Chao's anomalous size is a function of both the relatively steep local slope (20° to 3°) and the available volume of magma. The eruption duration for Chao's emplacement is thought to have been about 100 to 150 years, with maximum effusion rates of about 25 m³ s⁻¹ for short periods. Four other lavas in the vicinity with volumes of ∼5 km³ closely resemble Chao and are probably comagmatic. The suite as a whole shares a petrologic and chemical similarity with the voluminous regional Tertiary to Pleistocene ignimbrites of the APVC and may be derived from a zone of silicic magmatism that is thought to have been active since the late Tertiary. Chao and the other young lavas may represent either the waning of this system or a new episode fueled by intrusions of mafic magma.
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  • de Silva, S. L., S. Self, P. W. Francis, R. E. Drake, and R. R. Carlos (1994), Effusive silicic volcanism in the Central Andes: The Chao dacite and other young lavas of the Altiplano-Puna Volcanic Complex, Journal of Geophysical Research, 99(B9), 17,805–17,825, doi:10.1029/94JB00652.
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