Stratigraphy and evolution of the Holocene Aljojuca Maar volcano (Serdán-Oriental basin, Eastern Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt), and implications for hazard assessment

Lorena De León-Barragán, Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, Michael H. Ort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Aljojuca maar is located in the eastern Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, within the Serdán-Oriental Basin, which is characterized by Quaternary bimodal monogenetic volcanism. Aljojuca maar has an irregular shape, with an eastern embayment structure that forms an E-W alignment with at least three older scoria cones to the east. The crater walls expose a sequence of pre-maar volcaniclastic deposits, with a lava flow linked to the older scoria cones and a paleosol at its top; the latter indicates that a significant hiatus occurred between the growth of the scoria cones and the eruption of the Aljojuca maar, whose deposits overlie the soil. Strong interactions of the ascending magma with groundwater led to the emplacement of a ~30-m-thick maar sequence. Our detailed stratigraphic study shows that the eruption can be grouped into two main stages, comprising eight stratigraphic units deposited during five eruptive phases. The first stage reflects the development of the main crater (a maar sensu stricto) and is recorded by six stratigraphic units (from A to F). The eruption began with a strombolian pulse, followed by phreatomagmatic activity (unit A), forming dilute pyroclastic density currents. In the second phase, phreatomagmatic explosions prevailed with different degrees of fragmentation, from juvenile and lithic-rich lapilli fallout (unit B), to less diluted pyroclastic density currents (unit C), and a spatially restricted strombolian pulse. The third phase includes a main-vent enlargement event represented by a chaotic and heterolithic breccia (unit D). In the fourth phase, dilute pyroclastic density current deposits (unit E) dominate, with minor chaotic breccias (unit F). The second stage (fifth phase) includes the occurrence of a possibly fissural E-W structure, which formed a scallop in the eastern flank of the maar (eastern embayment structure), breaking the previously formed main crater's eastern flank and producing a 4-m-chaotic breccia (unit G) followed by the occurrence of a dilute pyroclastic density current (unit H), whose energy enabled the current to climb to the closest scoria cone. The migration of the explosive loci toward the eastern flank of the maar reflects a tectonic control by the dominant regional east-trending structural pattern. Several radiocarbon ages support that the eruption of Aljojuca took place between 2.7 ka (age of charcoal fragments under the ejecta ring) and ~2.2 ka (age of the oldest lake sediments in the maar crater). This has important implications for the hazard assessment of volcanism in this area, which had not been considered previously as a potentially active system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106789
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
StatePublished - Feb 15 2020


  • Holocene volcanism
  • Maar volcanoes
  • Monogenetic volcanism
  • Phreatomagmatism
  • Volcanic hazards
  • Volcanic stratigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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