New 40Ar/39Ar and whole-rock geochemical data are used to develop a detailed eruptive chronology for Akutan volcano, Akutan Island, Alaska, USA, in the eastern Aleutian island arc. Akutan Island (166°W, 54.1°N) is the site of long-lived volcanism and the entire island comprises volcanic rocks as old as 3.3 Ma. Our current study is on the 225 km2 western half of the island, where our results show that the focus of volcanism has shifted over the last ∼700 k.y., and that on occasion, multiple volcanic centers have been active over the same period, including within the Holocene. Incremental heating experiments resulted in 56 40Ar/39Ar plateau ages and span 2.3 Ma to 9.2 ka.
Eruptive products of all units are primarily tholeiitic and medium-K, and range from basalt to dacite. Rare calc-alkaline lavas show evidence suggesting their formation via mixing of mafic and evolved magmas, not via crystallization-derived differentiation through the calc-alkaline trend. Earliest lavas are broadly dispersed and are almost exclusively mafic with high and variable La/Yb ratios that are likely the result of low degrees of partial mantle melting. Holocene lavas all fall along a single tholeiitic, basalt-to-dacite evolutionary trend and have among the lowest La/Yb ratios, which favors higher degrees of mantle melting and is consistent with the increased magma flux during this time. A suite of xenoliths, spanning a wide range of compositions, are found in the deposits of the 1.6 ka caldera-forming eruption. They are interpreted to represent completely crystallized liquids or the crystal residuum from tholeiitic fractional crystallization of the active Akutan magma system.
The new geochronologic and geochemical data are used along with existing geodetic and seismic interpretations from the island to develop a conceptual model of the active Akutan magma system. Collectively, these data are consistent with hot, dry magmas that are likely stored at 5−10 km depth prior to eruption. The prolonged eruptive activity at Akutan has also allowed us to evaluate patterns in lava-ice interactions through time as our new data and observations suggest that the influence of glaciation on eruptive activity, and possible magma composition, is more pronounced at Akutan than has been observed for other well-studied Aleutian volcanoes to the west.