Abstract

The Valles caldera formed during two major rhyolitic ignimbrite eruptive episodes (the Bandelier Tuff) at 1.61 and 1.22 Ma, after some 12 m.y. of activity in the Jemez Mountains volcanic field, New Mexico. Several subsequent eruptions between 1.22 and 0.52 Ma produced dominantly high-silica rhyolite lava domes and tephras within the caldera. These were followed by a dormancy of 0.46 m.y. prior to the most recent intracaldera activity, the longest hiatus since the inception of the Bandelier magma system at ∼1.8 Ma. The youngest volcanic activity at ∼ 60 ka produced the SW moat rhyolites, a series of lavas and tuffs that display abundant petrologic evidence of being newly generated melts. Petrographic textures conform closely to published predictions for silicic magmas generated by intrusion of basaltic magma into continental crust. The Valles caldera may currently be the site of renewed silicic magma generation, induced by intrusion of mafic magma at depth. Recent seismic investigations revealed the presence of a large low-velocity anomaly in the lower crust beneath the caldera. The generally aseismic character of the caldera, despite abundant regional seismicity, may be attributed to a heated crustal column, the local effect of 13 m.y. of magmatism and emplacement of mid-crustal plutons. Seismic signals of magma movement in the deep to mid-crust may therefore be masked, and clear seismic indications of intrusion may only be generated within a few kilometres of the surface. We therefore encourage the establishment of a local dedicated volcanic monitoring system.

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