Abstract

The Miocene Grey's Landing ignimbrite reaches 70 m thick and covers at least 400 km2 in the central region of the Snake River Plain. It shows particularly intense welding and rheomorphic deformation, and although parts are eutaxitic, most is lava-like with flow-banding and no fiamme. A near-ubiquitous penetrative flow lamination, associated with a well-developed elongation lineation, is folded into small intrafolial tight to isoclinal oblique and sheath folds, which are refolded by larger folds in the upper parts. Structural and kinematic analysis reveals that welding and early deformation occurred rapidly during deposition from a very hot (≤1000 °C), high-mass-flux pyroclastic density current that flowed westward across a graben-faulted landscape. As hot particles were deposited, they rapidly agglutinated and coalesced, and underwent noncoaxial shear in a subhorizontal ductile shear zone close to the current-deposit interface. The shear zone is interpreted to have been less than 2 m thick. It produced and deformed the rheomorphic fabric, and it migrated upward with the rising current-deposit interface during aggradation, so that it transiently affected all levels of the resultant thick ignimbrite. Deformation was progressive, and after the density current had dissipated, viscous spreading and downslope flow continued and involved an increasingly thick portion of the sheet. This folded the flow banding and F1 intrafolial isoclines into larger sheath folds, and into more upright periclines near the top of the ignimbrite. We demonstrate that structural and kinematic analysis can elucidate the emplacement history of rheomorphic ignimbrites.

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