Multiple Plagioclase Crystal Populations Identified by Crystal Size Distribution and in situ Chemical Data: Implications for Timescales of Magma Chamber Processes Associated with the 1915 Eruption of Lassen Peak, CA

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Products of the 1915 Lassen Peak eruption reveal evidence for a magma recharge–magma mixing event that may have catalyzed the eruption and from which four compositional members were identified: light dacite, black dacite, andesitic inclusion, and dark andesite. Crystal size distribution, textural, and in situ chemical (major and trace element and Sr isotope) data for plagioclase from these compositional products define three crystal populations that have distinct origins: phenocrysts (long axis > 0·5 mm) that typically have core An contents between 34 and 36 mol %, microphenocrysts (long axis between 0·1 and 0·5 mm) that have core An contents of 66–69, and microlites (long axis < 0·1 mm) with variable An core contents from 64 to 52. Phenocrysts are interpreted to form in an isolated dacitic magma chamber that experienced slow cooling. Based on textural, compositional, and isotopic data for the magma represented by the dacitic component, magma recharge was not an important process until just prior to the 1915 eruption. Average residence times for phenocrysts are in the range of centuries to millennia. Microphenocrysts formed in a hybrid layer that resulted from mixing between end-member reservoir dacite and recharge magma of basaltic andesite composition. High thermal contrast between the two end-member magmas led to relatively high degrees of undercooling, which resulted in faster crystal growth rates and acicular and swallowtail crystal habits. Some plagioclase phenocrysts from the dacitic chamber were incorporated into the hybrid layer and underwent dissolution–precipitation, seen in both crystal textures and rim compositions. Average microphenocryst residence times are of the order of months. Microlites may have formed in response to decompression and/or syn-eruptive degassing as magma ascended from the chamber through the volcanic conduit. Chemical distinctions in plagioclase microlite An contents reveal that melt of the dark andesite was more mafic than the melt of the other three compositions. We suggest that mixing of an intruding basaltic andesite and reservoir dacite before magma began ascending in the conduit allowed formation of a compositionally distinct microlite population. Melt in the other three products was more evolved because it had undergone differentiation during the months following initial mixing; as a consequence, melt and microlites among these three products have similar compositions. The results of this study highlight the integrated use of crystal size distribution, textural, and in situ chemical data in identifying distinct crystal populations and linking these populations to the thermal and chemical characteristics of complex magma bodies.


This article was originally published in Journal of Petrology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Petrology


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