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Geology of El Chichon volcano, Chiapas, Mexico

January 1, 1984

The (pre-1982) 850-m-high andesitic stratovolcano El Chicho??n, active during Pleistocene and Holocene time, is located in rugged, densely forested terrain in northcentral Chiapas, Me??xico. The nearest neighboring Holocene volcanoes are 275 km and 200 km to the southeast and northwest, respectively. El Chicho??n is built on Tertiary siltstone and sandstone, underlain by Cretaceous dolomitic limestone; a 4-km-deep bore hole near the east base of the volcano penetrated this limestone and continued 770 m into a sequence of Jurassic or Cretaceous evaporitic anhydrite and halite. The basement rocks are folded into generally northwest-trending anticlines and synclines. El Chicho??n is built over a small dome-like structure superposed on a syncline, and this structure may reflect cumulative deformation related to growth of a crustal magma reservoir beneath the volcano. The cone of El Chicho??n consists almost entirely of pyroclastic rocks. The pre-1982 cone is marked by a 1200-m-diameter (explosion?) crater on the southwest flank and a 1600-m-diameter crater apparently of similar origin at the summit, a lava dome partly fills each crater. The timing of cone and dome growth is poorly known. Field evidence indicates that the flank dome is older than the summit dome, and K-Ar ages from samples high on the cone suggest that the flank dome is older than about 276,000 years. At least three pyroclastic eruptions have occurred during the past 1250 radiocarbon years. Nearly all of the pyroclastic and dome rocks are moderately to highly porphyritic andesite, with plagioclase, hornblende and clinopyroxene the most common phenocrysts. Geologists who mapped El Chicho??n in 1980 and 1981 warned that the volcano posed a substantial hazard to the surrounding region. This warning was proven to be prophetic by violent eruptions that occurred in March and April of 1982. These eruptions blasted away nearly all of the summit dome, blanketed the surrounding region with tephra, and sent pyroclastic flows down radial drainages on the flanks of the cone; about 0.3 km3 of material (density of all products normalized to 2.6 g cm-3) was erupted. More debris entered the stratosphere than from any other volcanic eruption within at least the past two decades. Halite and a calcium sulfate mineral (anhydrite?) recovered from the stratospheric cloud, and anhydrite as a common accessory mineral in 1982 juvenile erupted products may reflect contamination of El Chicho??n magma by the evaporite sequence revealed by drilling. ?? 1984.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1984
Title Geology of El Chichon volcano, Chiapas, Mexico
Authors W. A. Duffield, R.I. Tilling, R. Canul
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Series Number
Index ID 70014011
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization

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