Evolution of a complex isolated dome system, Cerro Pizarro, central México

Nancy Riggs, Gerardo Carrasco-Nunez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Cerro Pizarro is an isolated rhyolitic dome in the intermontane Serdán-Oriental basin, located in the eastern Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. Cerro Pizarro erupted ∼1.1 km3 of magma at about 220 ka. Activity of Cerro Pizarro started with vent-clearing explosions at some depth; the resultant deposits contain clasts of local basement rocks, including Cretaceous limestone, ∼0.46-Ma welded tuff, and basaltic lava. Subsequent explosive eruptions during earliest dome growth produced an alternating sequence of surge and fallout layers from an inferred small dome. As the dome grew both vertically and laterally, it developed an external glassy carapace due to rapid chilling. Instability of the dome during emplacement caused the partial gravitational collapse of its flanks producing various block-and-ash-flow deposits. After a brief period of repose, re-injection of magma caused formation of a cryptodome with pronounced deformation of the vitrophyric dome and the underlying units to orientations as steep as near vertical. This stage began apparently as a gas-poor eruption and no explosive phases accompanied the emplacement of the cryptodome. Soon after emplacement of the cryptodome, however, the western flank of the edifice catastrophically collapsed, causing a debris avalanche. A hiatus in eruptive activity was marked by erosion of the cone and emplacement of ignimbrite derived from a caldera to the north of Cerro Pizarro. The final growth of the dome growth produced its present shape; this growth was accompanied by multiple eruptions producing surge and fallout deposits that mantle the topography around Cerro Pizarro. The evolution of the Cerro Pizarro dome holds aspects in common with classic dome models and with larger stratovolcano systems. We suggest that models that predict a simple evolution for domes fail to account for possibilities in evolutionary paths. Specifically, the formation of a cryptodome in the early stages of dome formation may be far more common than generally recognized. Likewise, sector collapse of a dome, although apparently rare, is a potential hazard that must be recognized and for which planning must be done.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-335
Number of pages14
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Cryptodome
  • Dome
  • Dome collapse
  • Dome models
  • Eastern Mexican Volcanic Belt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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