Subsurface Structure of a Maar–Diatreme and Associated Tuff Ring from a High-Resolution Geophysical Survey, Rattlesnake Crater, Arizona

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Phreatomagmatism, Tuff ring, Magnetic, Gravity, GPR, San Francisco Volcanic Field

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Geophysical survey techniques including gravity, magnetics, and ground penetrating radar were utilized to study the diatremeand tuff ring at Rattlesnake Crater, a maar in the San Francisco Volcanic Field of northern Arizona. Significant magnetic anomalies (+ 1600 nT) and a positive gravity anomaly (+ 1.4 mGal) are associated with the maar. Joint modeling of magnetic and gravity data indicate that the diatreme that underlies Rattlesnake Crater has volume of 0.8–1 km3, and extends to at least 800 m depth. The modeled diatreme comprises at least two zones of variable density and magnetization, including a low density, highly magnetized unit near the center of the diatreme, interpreted to be a pyroclastic unit emplaced at sufficiently high temperature and containing sufficient juvenile fraction to acquire thermal remanent magnetization. Magnetic anomalies and ground penetrating radar (GPR) imaging demonstrate that the bedded pyroclastic deposits of the tuff ring also carry high magnetization, likely produced by energetic emplacement of hot pyroclastic density currents. GPR profiles on the tuff ring reveal long (~ 100 m) wavelength undulations in bedding planes. Elsewhere, comparable bedforms have been interpreted as base surge deposits inflated by air entrainment from eruption column collapse. Interpretation of these geophysical data suggests that Rattlesnake Crater produced highly energetic phreatomagmatic activity that gave way to less explosive activity as the eruption progressed. The positive gravity anomaly associated with the maar crater is interpreted to be caused by coherent bodies within the diatreme and possibly lava ponding on the crater floor. These dense magnetized bodies have excess mass of 2–4 × 1010 kg, and occupy approximately 5% of the diatreme by volume. Magnetic anomalies on the crater floor are elongate NW–SE, suggesting that the eruption may have been triggered by the interaction of ascending magma with water in fractures of this orientation. GPR imaging of the tuff ring also suggests that substantial land-slip may have occurred on the western rim, perhaps causing part of the tuff ring to collapse into the crater. Strong radar reflections indicative of well-developed weathering horizons are present as well. The techniques employed at Rattlesnake Crater demonstrate the value of combining multiple geophysical techniques in areas where exposures are limited and invasive exploration is not an option.

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 304, p. 253-264