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Complex spatter- and pumice-rich pyroclastic deposits from an andesitic caldera-forming eruption: The Siwi pyroclastic sequence, Tanna, Vanuatu

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posted on 2023-05-16, 17:39 authored by Sharon AllenSharon Allen
The small- to moderate-volume, Quaternary, Siwi pyroclastic sequence was erupted during formation of a 4 km-wide caldera on the eastern margin of Tanna, an island arc volcano in southern Vanuatu. This high-potassium, andesitic eruption followed a period of effusive basaltic andesite volcanism and represents the most felsic magma erupted from the volcano. The sequence is up to 13 m thick and can be traced in near-continuous outcrop over 11 km. Facies grade laterally from lithic-rich, partly welded spatter agglomerate along the caldera rim to two medial, pumiceous, non-welded ignimbrites that are separated by a layer of lithic-rich, spatter agglomerate. Juvenile clasts comprise a wide range of densities and grain sizes. They vary between black, incipiently vesicular, highly elongate spatter clasts that have breadcrusted pumiceous rinds and reach several metres across to silky, grey pumice lapilli. The pumice lapilli range from highly vesicular clasts with tube or coalesced spherical vesicles to denser finely vesicular clasts that include lithic fragments. Textural and lithofacies characteristics of the Siwi pyroclastic sequence suggest that the first phase of the eruption produced a base surge deposit and spatter-poor pumiceous ignimbrite. A voluminous eruption of spatter and lithic pyroclasts coincided with a relatively deep withdrawal of magma presumably driven by a catastrophic collapse of the magma chamber roof. During this phase, spatter clasts rapidly accumulated in the proximal zone largely as fallout, creating a variably welded and lithic-rich agglomerate. This phase was followed by the eruption of moderately to highly vesiculated magma that generated the most widespread, upper pumiceous ignimbrite. The combination of spatter and pumice in pyroclastic deposits from a single eruption appears to be related to highly explosive, magmatic eruptions involving low-viscosity magmas. The combination also indicates the coexistence of a spatter fountain and explosive eruption plume for much of the eruption.


Publication title

Bulletin of Volcanology








School of Natural Sciences



Place of publication

New York

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