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We used tephrochronology for upper Neogene deposits in the Española Basin and the adjoining Jemez Mountains volcanic field in the Rio Grande rift, northern New Mexico, to correlate key tephra strata in the study area, identify the sources for many of these tephra, and refine the maximum age of an important stratigraphic unit. Electron-microprobe analyses on volcanic glass separated from 146 pumice-fall, ash-fall, and ash-flow tephra units and layers show that they are mainly rhyolites and dacites. Jemez Mountains tephra units range in age from Miocene to Quaternary. From oldest to youngest these are: (1) the Canovas Canyon Rhyolite and the Paliza Canyon Formation of the lower Keres Group (ca. <12.4–7.4 Ma); (2) the Peralta Tuff Member of the Bearhead Rhyolite of the upper Keres Group (ca. 6.96–6.76 Ma); (3) Puye Formation tephra layers (ca. 5.3–1.75 Ma); (4) the informal San Diego Canyon ignimbrites (ca. 1.87–1.84 Ma); (5) the Otowi Member of the Bandelier Tuff, including the basal Guaje Pumice Bed (both ca. 1.68–1.61 Ma); (6) the Cerro Toledo Rhyolite (ca. 1.59–1.22 Ma); (7) the Tshirege Member of the Bandelier Tuff, including the basal Tsankawi Pumice Bed (both ca. 1.25–1.21 Ma); and (8) the El Cajete Member of the Valles Rhyolite (ca. 60–50 ka). The Paliza Canyon volcaniclastic rocks are chemically variable; they range in composition from dacite to dacitic andesite and differ in chemical composition from the younger units. The Bearhead Rhyolite is highly evolved and can be readily distinguished from the younger units. Tuffs in the Puye Formation are dacitic rather than rhyolitic in composition, and their glasses contain significantly higher Fe, Ca, Mg, and Ti, and lower contents of Si, Na, and K. We conclude that the Puye is entirely younger than the Bearhead Rhyolite and that its minimum age is ca. 1.75 Ma. The San Diego Canyon ignimbrites can be distinguished from all members of the overlying Bandelier Tuff on the basis of Fe and Ca. The Cerro Toledo tephra layers are readily distinguishable from the overlying and underlying units of the Bandelier Tuff primarily by lower Fe and Ca contents. The Tshirege and Otowi Members of the Bandelier Tuff are difficult to distinguish from each other on the basis of electron-microprobe analysis of the volcanic glass; the Tshirege Member contains on average more Fe than the Otowi Member. Tephra layers in the Española Basin that correlate to the Lava Creek B ash bed (ca. 640 ka) and the Nomlaki Tuff (Member of the Tuscan and Tehama Formations, ca. 3.3 Ma) indicate how far tephra from these eruptions traveled (the Yellowstone caldera of northwestern Wyoming and the southern Cascade Range of northern California, respectively). Tephra layers of Miocene age (16–10 Ma) sampled from the Tesuque Formation of the Santa Fe Group in the Española Basin correlate to sources associated with the southern Nevada volcanic field (Timber Mountain, Black Mountain, and Oasis Valley calderas) and the Snake River Plain–Yellowstone hot spot track in Idaho and northwestern Wyoming. Correlations of these tephra layers across the Santa Clara fault provide timelines through various stratigraphic sections despite differences in stratigraphy and lithology. We use tephra correlations to constrain the age of the base of the Ojo Caliente Sandstone Member of the Tesuque Formation to 13.5–13.3 Ma.

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