Geology and geochemistry of the Whakamaru Group ignimbrites, and associated rhyolite domes, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The Whakamaru group ignimbrites are a Widespread and voluminous group of welded crystal-rich ignimbrites which outcrop along the eastern and western margins of the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ), New Zealand. They have previously been mapped as Whakamaru (s.s), Manunui, Rangitaiki, Te Whaiti, and Paeroa ignimbrites, and have a combined volume of more than 1000km³ (DRE). The ignimbrites were erupted from a large vent area within central TVZ at 340ka, following a c.350ka hiatus in caldera forming activity in TVZ. This study investigates field and volcanological aspects of the ignimbrites, the geochemistry of pumice clasts and plutonic lithics, and the geochemistry of rhyolite lavas of the Western Dome Belt (WDB). The postulated vent area for the ignimbrites lies to the north of Lake Taupo and overlaps with the younger Taupo and Maroa volcanoes. Maximum lithic data indicate that the western margin of the vent area was located at or within a few kilometres east of the WDB, and probably overlapped with the northern part of Lake Taupo, providing clear support for a North Taupo/ Maroa caldera source. Isopleths close around an area previously modelled as a deep basement collapse structure, suggesting this area may have been an important focus of eruption and collapse within a broad 'Whakamaru Centre' comprising several nested collapse structures. On the basis of field evidence, mineral chemistry, and new Ar-Ar dates, Whakamaru, Manunui, Rangitaiki, Te Whaiti, Wairakei, and Paeroa Range Group (PRG) ignimbrites are considered to be correlatives. Manunui ignimbrite represents the stratigraphically lowest unit(s) of Whakamaru that is locally more highly welded and is less crystal rich in distal areas. Manunui ignimbrite therefore correlates with unit A of Briggs (1976) at Maraetai. East of TVZ, Te Whaiti ignimbrite also corresponds to the lowermost part of Lower Rangitaiki ignimbrite, with a gradational boundary between the two. There is no clear evidence for a significant time break between either Manunui and Whakamaru, or Te Whaiti and Rangitaiki ignimbrites. High precision Ar-Ar dating indicates eruptions occurred over a period of less than c.5ka, and lack of field evidence for a significant time break suggests a duration of no more than hundreds of years. Electron microprobe analysis of whole-rock samples throughout the ignimbrite sequence identify multiple populations of hornblende and biotite, whereas orthopyroxene has a relatively narrow compositional range. There is apparently no systematic variation in the chemistry of ferromagnesian silicate minerals with stratigraphic height. In contrast, Fe-Ti oxide minerals show considerable variability with stratigraphic height, becoming more Mg-rich toward the base of the ignimbrite. There is a corresponding trend in calculated Fe-Ti oxide temperatures, with generally high equilibrium temperatures (800-820°C) at the base, and generally lower, but widely variable (730-900+°C) temperatures in middle and upper parts. Study of juvenile pumices has identified five distinct magma types (rhyolites A-D, and high alumina basalt) and significant gradients in temperature, water content, and Sr isotopic composition in the preeruptive magma system. Rhyolite pumice clasts range from 70 to 77 wt% SiO₂, and mixed basalt/rhyolite clasts range from 51.7 to 68.0% SiO₂. There is a marked variation in mineral assemblage with composition. The low silica type A rhyolite pumices contain plagioclase, quartz, orthopyroxene, hornblende, biotite, and magnetite with distinctive large rounded quartz phenocrysts. High silica type B and C pumices contain quartz (smaller, subhedral phenocrysts), plagioclase, sanidine, biotite, and magnetite/ilmenite. Biotite therefore becomes the dominant mafic phase at high silica compositions as orthopyroxene and hornblende disappear in response to increasing P(H20) and decreasing temperature conditions. Calculated Fe-Ti oxide equilibrium temperatures range from 730°C in high silica pumices to 820°C in low silica type A pumices. Rare earth elements show a general enrichment in the more evolved pumices, and progressively increasing Eu* from type A to C. More evolved rhyolite types B and C are related to type A magma by a two-stage crystal fractionation process, probably by side wall crystallisation and convective fractionation within a large, zoned magma chamber. The first step involved 30-40% fractionation of a plagioclase-dominated (but sanidine-free) assemblage to produce a type B magma, which in turn underwent fractionation of a plagioclase/quartzlsanidine assemblage to produce the highly evolved, but relatively Ba-depleted type C magmas. Petrographic and temperature trends in ignimbrite wholerock suggest that eruptions commenced with the hottest, least evolved magmas, and more evolved magmas became important at a later stage in the eruption. This sequence precludes simple sequential tapping of a large zoned magma chamber, and indicates a complex magma chamber configuration and/or withdrawal dynamics during eruption. Two types of plutonic lithics have been recovered from Whakamaru group ignimbrite; leucocratic biotite monzogranite, and medium- to fine-grained dolerites. Whakamaru granites are chemicallymore evolved, and are strongly depleted in HREE compared to granitoid lithics from Atiamuri and Tarawera. They are chemically unlike pumices from Whakamaru group ignimbrite, and are not comagmatic. Rhyolite lavas of the WDB were extruded along a N-S trending curvilinear structure that marks the western boundary of the TVZ, and also coincides with the western margin of the Whakamaru caldera. Analyses fall into two compositional groups; the Western Dome Complex, south of the Waikato River are chemically variable (73.4-76.4% SiO₂), whereas the Northwestern Dome Complex are predominantly high-silica rhyolites (>77% SiO₂). The lavas have similar trace element and REE characteristics to Whakamaru pumices, but have lower ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr ratios, indicating they are not simply degassed remnants of the Whakamaru magma system, but represent new crustal melts. The Whakamaru magma system provides clear evidence that (less evolved) low silica rhyolites undergo significant fractionation at shallow crustal levels in TVZ, to produce the generally more evolved rhyolites most commonly erupted at the surface. Type A magma with its relatively high Sr, low Rb and SiO₂, and lack of a significant Eu anomaly may be close to a 'primary' crustal melt composition. Trace element and REE characteristics for selected rhyolite domes and ignimbrites suggest the crustal source for TVZ rhyolites is not homogenous, but may be variable, at least with respect to mineral composition and melting behaviour in space and time.