Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Pleistocene hydrothermal activity on Brokeoff volcano and in the Maidu volcanic center, Lassen Peak area, northeast California: Evolution of magmatic-hydrothermal systems on stratovolcanoes

April 26, 2019

Partially eroded stratovolcanoes worldwide, notably Mounts Rainier and Adams in the Cascades and several volcanoes in Japan, record episodic periods of eruption and geothermal activity that produce zones of hydrothermal alteration. The partly eroded core of late Pleistocene Brokeoff volcano on the south side of Lassen Peak exposes the upper 1 km of multiple ancient (ca. 410–300 ka) magmatic-hydrothermal alteration zones in a 3.5 by 5 km area that allows characterization of the three-dimensional hydrothermal evolution of the volcano. Both acid- and neutral-pH hydrothermal solutions produced distinctive alteration mineral assemblages in close proximity. Early hydrothermal activity is characterized by alunite-rich alteration that is temporally and spatially related to shallow intrusions in the center of the volcano. Younger acid alteration and a large area of neutral-pH alteration formed along the volcano’s flanks. The neutral-pH alteration is vertically zoned over 1000 m from shallow zeolite ± adularia through intermediate argillic (smectite-pyrite ± illite) to deep propylitic (chlorite-calcite-albite-illite) alteration. Pleistocene alteration is partly overprinted by surficial, steam-heated alteration related to Lassen’s modern hydrothermal activity. A large (∼3.5 km2), shallow (≤300 m), ca. 1.5 Ma alunite-rich magmatic-hydrothermal alteration zone is exposed on the northeast flank of the nearby Maidu volcanic center.