Abstract

Volcanic hazard studies for high-level radioactive waste isolation in the Yucca Mountain area, Nevada, require a detailed understanding of Quaternary volcanism to forecast rates of volcanic processes. Recent studies of the Quaternary Cima volcanic field in southern California have demonstrated that K-Ar dates of volcanic landforms are consistent with their geomorphic and pedologic properties. The systematic change of these properties with time may be used to provide age estimates of undated or questionably dated volcanic features. The reliability off radiometric age determinations of the youngest volcanic center, Lathrop Wells, near the proposed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada has been problematic. In this study, a comparison of morphometric, pedogenic, and stratigraphic data establishes that correlation of geomorphic and soil properties between the Cima volcanic field and the Yucca Mountain area is valid. Comparison of the Lathrop Wells cinder cone to a 15-20 ka cinder cone in California shows that their geomorphic-pedogenic properties are similar and implies that the two cones are of similar age. We conclude that previous determinations of ca. 0.27 Ma for the latest volcanic activity at Lathrop Wells, approximately 20 km from the proposed repository, may be in error by as much as an order of magnitude and that the most recent volcanic activity is no older than 20 ka.

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