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The compositionally zoned eruption of 1912 in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Katmai National Park, Alaska

January 1, 1983

On June 6–8, 1912, ∼ 15 km3 of magma erupted from the Novarupta caldera at the head of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes (VTTS), producing ∼ 20 km3 of air-fall tephra and 11–15 km3 of ash-flow tuff within ∼ 60 hours. Three discrete periods of ash-fall at Kodiak correlate, respectively, with Plinian tephra layers designated A, CD, and FG by Curtis (1968) in the VTTS. The ash-flow sequence overlapped with but outlasted pumice fall A, terminating within 20 hours of the initial outbreak and prior to pumice fall C. Layers E and H consist mostly of vitric dust that settled during lulls, and Layer B is the feather edge of the ash flow. The fall units filled and obscured the caldera, but arcuate and radial fissures outline a 6-km2 depression. The Novarupta lava dome and its ejecta ring were emplaced later within the depression. At Mt. Katmai, 10 km east of the 1912 vent, a 600-m-deep caldera of similar area also collapsed at about this time, probably owing to hydraulic connection with the venting magma system; but all known ejecta are thought to have erupted at Novarupta. Mingling of three distinctive magmas during the eruption produced an abundance of banded pumice, and mechanical mixing of chilled ejecta resulted in deposits with a wide range of bulk composition. Pumice in the initial fall unit (A) is 100% rhyolite, but fall units atop the ash flow are > 98% dacite; black andesitic scoria is common only in the ash flows and in near-vent air-fall tephra. Pumice counts show the first half of the ash-flow deposit to be 91–98% rhyolite, but progressive increases of dacite and andesite eventually reduced the rhyolitic component to < 2%. The later, rhyolite-poor flows were hotter, less mobile, and widely produced partially welded tuff and vapor-indurated sillar.

The main ash flow was too deflated and sluggish 16 km from the vent to surmount a 25-m-high moraine in its path but was diverted around it and continued 5 km down-valley, engulfing and charring trees but not toppling all of them. Thin ash-flow veneers feather 30–40 m up the enclosing valley walls but only where a constriction in the central VTTS locally raised the flow level. In the upper VTTS, the “high sand mark” is not a veneer but a marginal bench formed in thick tuff by differential compaction. Flooding from adjacent glaciers led to phreatic explosions that ejected blocks of tuff more welded than any yet exposed. A cluster of phreatic craters dammed a lake atop the tuff, the breaching of which caused a flood that scoured the ash-flow surface in the central VTTS, transported 50-cm blocks of welded tuff > 20 km to the lowermost VTTS, and deposited 1–8 m of debris there.

Rhyolitic ejecta contain only 1–2% phenocrysts but andesite and dacite have 30–45%. Quartz is present and augite absent only in the rhyolite, but all ejecta contain plagioclase, orthopyroxene, titanomagnetite, ilmenite, apatite, and pyrrhotite; rare olivine occurs in the andesite. The zoning ranges of phenocrysts in the rhyolitic and intermediate ejecta do not overlap. New chemical data show the bulk SiO2 range to be: rhyolite 77 ± 0.6, dacite 66-64.5, and andesite 61.5–58.5%. The dacitic and andesitic ejecta contrast in color and density, and it is not certain whether they form a compositional continuum. Analyses reported by Fenner within the 66–76% SiO2 range were of banded pumice and lava and of bulk tephra that mechanically fractionated and mixed during flight. Despite the gap of 10% SiO2, Fe-Ti-oxide temperatures show a continuous range from rhyolite (805–850°C) through dacite (855–955°C) to andesite (955–990°C). Thermal continuity and isotopic and trace-element data suggest that all were derived from a single magmatic system, whether or not they were physically contiguous before eruption. If the rhyolitic liquid separated from dacitic magma, extraction was so efficient that no dacitic phenocrysts were retained and no bulk compositions in the range 66–76% SiO2 were created; if it were a partial melt of roof rocks atop an intermediate magma body, then such rocks had no O- or Sr-isotopic contrast with the andesite-dacite magma and clearly did not include the Jurassic arkosic or granitic basement. The presence of Holocene domes of pre-1912 glassy dacite adjacent to the 1912 vent suggest that the 7 km3 (or more) of high-silica rhyolitic magma (a composition rare in the Aleutian arc) was generated in less than a few thousand years. The 1912 vent is semi-encircled by several andesitic stratocones and is as close to Mageik, Trident, and Griggs volcanoes as it is to Mt. Katmai. The erupted magma probably occupied only shallow levels of an extensive system of injection and storage under a cluster of several stratovolcanoes. Although Quaternary basalt is not known to have erupted here, the intrusion of basaltic magma probably sustains the greater-VTTS magmatic system.

Publication Year 1983
Title The compositionally zoned eruption of 1912 in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Katmai National Park, Alaska
DOI 10.1016/0377-0273(83)90003-3
Authors W. Hildreth
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Index ID 70011383
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse