Columnar jointing in vapor-phase-altered, non-welded Cerro Galan Ignimbrite, Paycuqui, Argentina

Heather Wright, Chiara Lesti, Raymond Cas, Massimiliano Porreca, Jose Viramonte, Christopher Folkes, Guido Giordano

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    Columnar jointing is thought to occur primarily in lavas and welded pyroclastic flow deposits. However, the non-welded Cerro Gal? n Ignimbrite at Paycuqui, Argentina, contains well-developed columnar joints that are instead due to high-temperature vapor-phase alteration of the deposit, where devitrification and vapor-phase crystallization have increased the density and cohesion of the upper half of the section. Thermal remanent magnetization analyses of entrained lithic clasts indicate high emplacement temperatures, above 630A?C, but the lack of welding textures indicates temperatures below the glass transition temperature. In order to remain below the glass transition at 630A?C, the minimum cooling rate prior to deposition was 3.0 ?? 10-3-8.5 ?? 10-2A?C/min (depending on the experimental data used for comparison). Alternatively, if the deposit was emplaced above the glass transition temperature, conductive cooling alone was insufficient to prevent welding. Crack patterns (average, 4.5 sides to each polygon) and column diameters (average, 75 cm) are consistent with relatively rapid cooling, where advective heat loss due to vapor fluxing increases cooling over simple conductive heat transfer. The presence of regularly spaced, complex radiating joint patterns is consistent with fumarolic gas rise, where volatiles originated in the valley-confined drainage system below. Joint spacing is a proxy for cooling rates and is controlled by depositional thickness/valley width. We suggest that the formation of joints in high-temperature, non-welded deposits is aided by the presence of underlying external water, where vapor transfer causes crystallization in pore spaces, densifies the deposit, and helps prevent welding.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1567 - 1582
    Number of pages16
    JournalBulletin of Volcanology
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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