The El Cajete Series, Valles Caldera, New Mexico

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Journal Article: The El Cajete Series, Valles Caldera, New Mexico

Three rhyolite eruptive units totaling 3 km3 dense rock equivalent volume are the youngest products from the Valles caldera, New Mexico. These pyroclastic and effusive units, herein called the El Cajete Series, were erupted over an appreciable time period with Plinian and ignimbrite-forming activity preceding an effusive phase by a lengthy but indeterminable interval. New U-Th disequilibrium and published fission track dates support an age for the event between 170 and 130 ka. The explosive phases formed the El Cajete Plinian deposit (about 1.3 km3), minor dry pyroclastic surges, and the Battleship Rock tuff (about 1.0 km3), a valley-confined welded ignimbrite. The Plinian eruption column is estimated to have been 28 km high during deposition of the most widely dispersed pumice fall unit. Slow effusion of the Banco Bonito obsidian lava flow (<1.0 km3) onto a dissected surface cut into the El Cajete and Battleship Rock pyroclastic deposits, accompanied by minor explosive activity, terminated the event. Twenty-four bulk-rock samples from all three eruptive stages exhibit little significant compositional variation, and the three units are petrographically identical apart from differences arising from contrasting eruption styles. Very few phenocrysts appear to have been in equilibrium with their enclosing high-silica rhyolitic liquid. Plagioclase grains are typically strongly resorbed, while biotite and hornblende frequently occur in aggregate grains in which textures characteristic of plutonic rocks can be discerned. These features result from partial melting of preexisting crustal igneous rock, probably of dioritic to granodioritic composition, and subsequent eruption of the resulting liquid plus restite crystals. Rapid generation and eruption of rhyolitic magma during this most recent phase of activity in the Jemez Mountains may imply that the Valles magma system is presently in a state where small magma bodies are transient phenomena.

Stephen Self, D.E. Kircher and John A. Wolff

Published Journal 
Journal of Geophysical Research, 1988


Internet link for The El Cajete Series, Valles Caldera, New Mexico

Stephen Self,D.E. Kircher,John A. Wolff. 1988. The El Cajete Series, Valles Caldera, New Mexico. Journal of Geophysical Research. 93(B6):6113-6127.