Evolution of tuff ring-dome complex: The case study of Cerro Pinto, eastern Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt

Brian W. Zimmer, Nancy R. Riggs, Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Cerro Pinto is a Pleistocene rhyolite tuff ringdome complex located in the eastern Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. The complex is composed of four tuff rings and four domes that were emplaced in three eruptive stages marked by changes in vent location and eruptive character. During Stage I, vent clearing produced a 1.5-km-diameter tuff ring that was then followed by emplacement of two domes of approximately 0.2 km3 each. With no apparent hiatus in activity, Stage II began with the explosive formation of a tuff ring ̃ 2 km in diameter adjacent to and north of the earlier ring. Subsequent Stage II eruptions produced two smaller tuff rings within the northern tuff ring as well as a small dome that was mostly destroyed by explosions during its growth. Stage III involved the emplacement of a 0.04 km3 dome within the southern tuff ring. Cerro Pinto's eruptive history includes sequences that follow simple rhyolite-dome models, in which a pyroclastic phase is followed immediately by effusive dome emplacement. Some aspects of the eruption, however, such as the explosive reactivation of the system and explosive dome destruction, are more complex. These events are commonly associated with polygenetic structures, such as stratovolcanoes or calderas, in which multiple pulses of magma initiate reactivation. A comparison of major and trace element geochemistry with nearby Pleistocene silicic centers does not show indication of any co-genetic relationship, suggesting that Cerro Pinto was produced by a small, isolated magma chamber. The compositional variation of the erupted material at Cerro Pinto is minimal, suggesting that there were not multiple pulses of magma responsible for the complex behavior of the volcano and that the volcanic system was formed in a short time period. The variety of eruptive style observed at Cerro Pinto reflects the influence of quickly exhaustible water sources on a short-lived eruption. The rising magma encountered small amounts of groundwater that initiated eruption phases. Once a critical magma:water ratio was exceeded, the eruptions became dry and sub-plinian to plinian. The primary characteristic of Cerro Pinto is the predominance of fall deposits, suggesting that the level at which rising magma encountered water was deep enough to allow substantial fragmentation after the water source was exhausted. Isolated rhyolite domes are rare and are not currently viewed as prominent volcanic hazards, but the evolution of Cerro Pinto demonstrates that individual domes may have complex cycles, and such complexity must be taken into account when making hazard risk assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1223-1240
Number of pages18
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Dome collapse
  • Dome complex
  • Fall-dominated
  • Phreatomagmatism
  • Rhyolite
  • Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt
  • Tuff ring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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