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Episodic Holocene eruption of the Salton Buttes rhyolites, California

Publications: 

Episodic Holocene eruption of the Salton Buttes rhyolites, California, from paleomagnetic, U-Th, and Ar/Ar dating

Heather M. Wright1, Jorge A. Vazquez, Duane E. Champion, Andrew T. Calvert, Margaret T. Mangan, Mark Stelten, Kari M. Cooper, Charles Herzig, and Alexander Schriener Jr.

Abstract

In the Salton Trough, CA, five rhyolite domes form the Salton Buttes: Mullet Island, Obsidian Butte, Rock Hill, North and South Red Hill, from oldest to youngest. Results presented here include 40Ar/39Ar anorthoclase ages, 238U-230Th zircon crystallization ages, and comparison of remanent paleomagnetic directions with the secular variation curve, which indicate that all domes are Holocene. 238U-230Th zircon crystallization ages are more precise than but within uncertainty of 40Ar/39Ar anorthoclase ages, suggesting that zircon crystallization proceeded until shortly before eruption in all cases except one. Remanent paleomagnetic directions require three eruption periods: (1) Mullet Island, (2) Obsidian Butte, and (3) Rock Hill, North Red Hill, and South Red Hill. Borehole cuttings logs document up to two shallow tephra layers. North and South Red Hills likely erupted within 100 years of each other, with a combined 238U-230Th zircon isochron age of: 2.83 +/- 0.60 ka (2 sigma); paleomagnetic evidence suggests this age predates eruption by hundreds of years (1800 cal BP). Rock Hill erupted closely in time to these eruptions. The Obsidian Butte 238U-230Th isochron age (2.86 +/- 0.96 ka) is nearly identical to the combined Red Hill age, but its Virtual Geomagnetic Pole position suggests a slightly older age. The age of aphyric Mullet Island dome is the least well constrained: zircon crystals are resorbed and the paleomagnetic direction is most distinct; possible Mullet Island ages include ca. 2300, 5900, 6900, and 7700 cal BP. Our results constrain the duration of Salton Buttes volcanism to between ca. 5900 and 500 years.