Uturuncu Volcano, Bolivia: Volcanic Unrest Due to Mid-Crustal Magma Intrusion

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Uturuncu volcano, SW Bolivia, is a dormant stratovolcano (∼85 km3) dominated by dacitic lava domes and flows. 39Ar/40Ar ages show that the volcano was active between 890 ka and 271 ka, with the lavas becoming younger and less extensive at higher elevations. There are current signs of unrest. Between 1992 and 2006 geodetic satellite measurements record an ongoing 70 km deformation field with a central uplift rate of 1 to 2 cm/yr. Deformation indicates volume changes of 400 × 108 m3 over 14 years, an average of ∼1 m3/s (10−2 km3/yr). The deformation is attributed to magma intrusion into the Altiplano-Puna regional crustal magma body. Deformation models indicate a source at depths of 17 to 30 km beneath current local relief. In a reconnaissance survey, persistent seismic activity (mean of 2.6 earthquakes per hour with a maximum of 14 per hour) was recorded at about 4 km depth below the center of the uplift, 4 km SW of the volcano's summit. The seismic events have a normal b value (∼1.04) and activity is attributed to brittle deformation in the elastic crust above the active deep magma intrusion. The porphyritic dacite lavas (64−68% SiO2) have a plagioclase-orthopyroxene-biotite-magnetite-ilmenite assemblage and commonly contain juvenile silicic andesite inclusions, cognate norite nodules and crustal xenoliths. Temperature estimates are in the range 805 to 872°C for the dacites and about 980°C for the silicic andesites. The dacite magmas formed by fractional crystallization of andesite forming norite cumulates and involving partial melting of crust. Compositions and zoning patterns of orthopyroxene and plagioclase phenocrysts indicate that compositional variation in the dacites is caused by magma mixing with the silicic andesite. Reversely zoned orthopyroxene phenocrysts in the andesitic end-member are explained by changing oxidation states during crystallization. Fe3+/Fe2+ ratios from orthopyroxene crystals and Fe3+ in plagioclase provide evidence for a relatively reduced melt that subsequently ascended, degassed and became more oxidized as a consequence of degassing. The geophysical and petrological observations suggest that dacite magma is being intruded into the Altiplano-Puna regional crustal magma body at 17 km or more depth, consistent with deformation models. In the Late Pleistocene dacitic and andesitic magmas ascended from the regional crustal magma body to a shallow magma system at a few kilometers depth where they crystallized and mingled together. The current unrest, together with geophysical anomalies and 270 ka of dormancy, indicate that the magmatic system is in a prolonged period of intrusion. Such circumstances might eventually lead to eruption of large volumes of intruded magma with potential for caldera formation.

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American Journal of Science, v. 308, issue 6, p. 727-769