Prolonged history of silicic peralkaline volcanism in the eastern Pacific Ocean

Wendy A. Bohrson, Mary R. Reid, Anita L. Grunder, Matthew T. Heizler, T. Mark Harrison, Jeffrey Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Socorro Island, Mexico, is an alkaline and peralkaline volcanic island located in the eastern Pacific Ocean on a mid-ocean ridge spreading center that was abandoned at ∼3.5 Ma. Silicic peralkaline rocks comprise up to 80% of the surface of the island, rendering Socorro virtually unique in the Pacific Ocean. Precise, replicate 40Ar/39Ar ages of 21 peralkaline trachytes and rhyolites reveal a history of episodic volcanic activity from ∼540 to 370 ka that may have culminated with caldera formation; repose periods between these episodes may have had maximum duration of ∼30 kyr. After up to 200 kyr of quiescence, 40Ar/39Ar ages indicate that postcaldera silicic peralkaline activity commenced by 180 ka, forming the Cerro Evermann Formation. Postcaldera mafic alkaline lavas of the Lomas Coloradas Formation erupted dominantly between 70 and 150 ka based upon relative age relations. The dominant lithology of precaldera and syncaldera silicic peralkaline deposits on Socorro is nonfragmental and nonvesicular and lacks lithic fragments and fiamme; despite this, numerous lines of evidence including welding zonation, presence of a proximal ignimbrite or co-ignimbrite deposit, association with a caldera, and compositional heterogeneity within eruptive units suggest that they are dominantly ash flow tuffs. A change in eruptive style, from predominantly explosive to predominantly effusive, followed caldera formation and suggests that a change in the efficacy of magma degassing may be linked to caldera formation. On the basis of the presence of a caldera, the magma chamber associated with Socorro Island is shallow and probably resides within the upper oceanic crust or the edifice. This together with a prolonged history of silicic magmatism indicates that intrusion of mafic magma maintained thermal viability of the magmatic plumbing system. The minimum calculated growth rate for the entire volcanic edifice (7×10-4 km3/yr) exceeds those of nonhotspot off-axis volcanoes in the Pacific by almost an order of magnitude. Eruption rates for subaerial phases on Socorro may be several orders of magnitude smaller than this growth rate and are comparable to subaerial eruption rates of isolated ocean islands related to mantle plumes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11457-11474
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 10 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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