Abstract

By using 40Ar/39Ar incremental-heating and laser-fusion techniques, xenocrystic plagioclase was discovered in a late Pleistocene andesitic lava that erupted through the Andean Cordillera. Inherited argon in the xenocrysts is as much as ∼450 times older than the host lava, the age of which is independently known, and is an obstacle to dating the lava by using a whole-rock sample. The xenocrysts are impossible to identify from petrography or chemical parameters such as their K/Ca ratios. Holocrystalline groundmass, carefully separated from plagioclase and other phenocrysts, gives an accurate 40Ar/39Ar age for the lava. The xenocrysts could not have been degassed for more than several days in the magma and probably were assimilated from Paleozoic rocks buried under kilometers of Mesozoic and Tertiary arc rocks composing the Cordillera in central Chile. The required magma ascent velocity, on the order of kilometers/day, is extraordinarily high compared to the 10−4 km/day minimum implied by the 226Ra excess in continental arc lavas. These data permit magma migration and storage in the mantle and lower crust for as much as thousands of years, followed abruptly by rapid ascent to the surface.

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