Abstract

The catastrophic gravitational collapse of the Old Cone of Volcán Parinacota produced a 6 km3 debris avalanche that traveled ∼22 km and covered more than 150 km2. The Upper Lauca drainage, a broad high-altitude basin in the Chilean Altiplano, was permanently altered by the collapse. Although the eruptive history of Parinacota before and after the debris avalanche is well known from petrologic and geochronologic studies, previous age limits on the debris avalanche (based on multiple chronometers) span ca. 8–20 ka. New cosmogenic surface-exposure ages from boulders atop the deposit are based on a regionally calibrated production rate of in situ 10Be and indicate that the avalanche occurred at 8.8 ± 0.5 ka. These data demonstrate that cosmogenic 10Be surface-exposure dating can be successfully applied to quartz-bearing, volcanic debris avalanche deposits, and that this method offers a distinct advantage over 14C chronologies that provide only minimum or maximum age limits. The 8.8 ka exposure age for the debris avalanche (1) agrees with 14C age limits of paleosol material incorporated in the debris avalanche, (2) requires a voluminous initial phase of postcollapse volcanism with an eruptive rate exceeding that of recent cone-building episodes at most continental arc volcanoes, and (3) suggests that volcano collapse did not result in the formation of Lago Chungará, but instead led to a major expansion of a preexisting closed basin.

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