Abstract

Debris avalanches caused by the collapse of volcanic flanks pose a great risk to inhabited areas and may permanently change the surrounding landscape and its drainage systems. In this research, we explored the interplay between a debris avalanche and a tectonically uplifting surrounding landscape, providing insights into the long-term consequences of volcanic edifice failures. Exposures of coarse volcaniclastic sediments along the Hautapu River ∼50 km southeast of Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand, show evidence of the largest known collapse event of the stratovolcano, which was followed by a vigorous regrowth phase that produced numerous pyroclastic eruptions and pumice-rich lahars. Similar diamicton deposits are exposed within the river catchment adjacent to the west. Cover-bed stratigraphy and geochemical correlation of andesitic lava blocks within the debris-avalanche deposit with dated lavas exposed on the cone indicate that deposition occurred between 125 and 150 ka. The collapse took place during the shift from a glacial to an interglacial climate, when glaciers on the cone were in retreat, and high pore-water pressures combined with deep hydrothermal alteration weakened the cone. In addition, collapse may have been accompanied by magmatic unrest. The ∼2–3 km3 debris avalanche inundated an area of >260 km2 and entered the proto-Hautapu catchment, where it was channelized within the deeply entrenched valley. Mass-wasting events associated with postcollapse volcanism continued to be channeled into the proto–Hautapu River for another ∼10 k.y., producing long-runout lahars. Subsequently, the river catchment was isolated from the volcano by incision of the intervening Whangaehu River into the proximal volcaniclastic sediments, accompanied by regional faulting and graben deepening around Ruapehu. At present, the volcaniclastic deposits form a distinctive plateau on the highest topographic elevation within the Hautapu Valley, forming a reversed topography caused by preferred incision of the Hautapu River into softer Late Tertiary sediments concurrent with constant uplift.

You do not currently have access to this article.