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Monogenetic origin of Ubehebe Crater maar volcano, Death Valley, California: Paleomagnetic and stratigraphic evidence

April 1, 2018

Paleomagnetic data for samples collected from outcrops of basaltic spatter at the Ubehebe Crater cluster, Death Valley National Park, California, record a single direction of remanent magnetization indicating that these materials were emplaced during a short duration, monogenetic eruption sequence ~ 2100 years ago. This conclusion is supported by geochemical data encompassing a narrow range of oxide variation, by detailed stratigraphic studies of conformable phreatomagmatic tephra deposits showing no evidence of erosion between layers, by draping of sharp rimmed craters by later tephra falls, and by oxidation of later tephra layers by the remaining heat of earlier spatter. This model is also supported through a reinterpretation and recalculation of the published age results (Sasnett et al., 2012) from an innovative and bold exposure-age study on very young materials. Their conclusion of multiple and protracted eruptions at Ubehebe Crater cluster is here modified through the understanding that some of their quartz-bearing clasts inherited from previous exposure on the fan surface (too old), and that other clasts were only exposed at the surface by wind and/or water erosion centuries after their eruption (too young). Ubehebe Crater cluster is a well preserved example of young monogenetic maar type volcanism protected within a National Park, and it represents neither a protracted eruption sequence as previously thought, nor a continuing volcanic hazard near its location.