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The Mount Mazama climactic eruption (∼6900 yr B.P.) and resulting convulsive sedimentation on the Crater Lake caldera floor, continent, and ocean basin

By
C. Hans Nelson
C. Hans Nelson
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Paul R. Carlson
Paul R. Carlson
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Charles R. Bacon
Charles R. Bacon
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Published:
January 01, 1988

The climactic eruption of Mount Mazama and the resulting sedimentation may have been the most significant convulsive sedimentary event in North America during Holocene time. A collapse caldera 1,200 m deep and 10 km in diameter was formed in Mount Mazama, and its floor was covered by hundreds of meters of wall-collapse debris. Wind-blown pyroclastic ash extended 2,000 km northeast from Mount Mazama and covered more than 1,000,000 km2 of the continent. On the Pacific Ocean floor, Mazama ash was transported westward 600 to 700 km along deep-sea channels by turbidity currents.

The initial single-vent phase of the climactic eruption, a Plinian column, emptied over half of the magma erupted. Debris from this phase accumulated as a pumice deposit 10 m thick at the rim to 50 cm thick as much as 100 km from the vent. This deposit created a mid-Holocene stratigraphic marker over the continent and the continental margin of western North America. A ring-vent phase followed as a second part of the climactic eruption and produced highly mobile pyroclastic flows. These flows covered the mountain for at least 14 km from the vent, continued down the valleys nearly 60 km, and deposited as much as 100 m of pumiceous ignimbrite.

After the caldera collapsed as a result of the eruption of more than 50 km3 of magma, heat of the climactic eruption apparently created phreatic explosion craters along the ring fracture zone of the caldera floor. Initially, explosion debris and sheetwash of pyroclastics off highlands seems mainly to have filled the local craters with bedded volcaniclastics. This basal, generally flat-lying unit, was quickly covered by wedges of chaotically bedded debris flow and avalanche-type deposits that thin inward from the caldera walls. These deposits may have formed in response to seismic activity associated with postcaldera volcanism that apparently began soon after the caldera collapsed. The lower two units of non-lacustrine beds (50 to 60 m) make up the majority of the postcaldera sedimentary deposits and seem to have deposited rapidly after the climactic eruption. Twenty to 25 m of lacustrine sediment has been accumulating more slowly over the subaerial debris during the past 6,900 yr.

Some Mazama ash probably was transported by rivers to the sea immediately after the climactic eruption because significant amounts of this ash appear in mid-Holocene turbidites of Cascadia Basin. The presence of Mazama ash mixed with Columbia River sand in texturally and compositionally graded turbidites shows that Mazama ash periodically was moved by sediment-gravity flows down the canyons and through channels to deposition sites in the Astoria Fan and the Cascadia Channel. The coarsest and thickest tuffaceous turbidites were deposited on channel floors, and the ash-rich suspension flows that overtopped the levees were deposited as thin-bedded turbidites in interchannel areas.

Study of the Mount Mazama climactic eruption shows that such an event in the Cascade Mountains has the potential to: (a) cause major destruction within 100 km of the vent, (b) severely affect biota as far as 2,000 km downwind, and (c) disrupt commercial river and marine transportation or natural sedimentation as far as several hundred kilometers in the opposite direction from wind-blown debris. Present geologic characteristics on the Crater Lake caldera floor suggest that geologic hazards from a significant volcanic event appear to be minimal for the next few thousand years.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Sedimentologic Consequences of Convulsive Geologic Events

H. Edward Clifton
H. Edward Clifton
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Geological Society of America
Volume
229
ISBN print:
9780813722290
Publication date:
January 01, 1988

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