Volcanological perspectives on Long Valley, Mammoth Mountain, and Mono Craters: Several contiguous but discrete systems

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research



The volcanic history of the Long Valley region is examined within a framework of six successive (spatially discrete) foci of silicic magmatism, each driven by locally concentrated basaltic intrusion of the deep crust in response to extensional unloading and decompression melting of the upper mantle. A precaldera dacite field (3.5–2.5 Ma) northwest of the later site of Long Valley and the Glass Mountain locus of >60 high-silica rhyolite vents (2.2–0.79 Ma) northeast of it were spatially and temporally independent magmatic foci, both cold in postcaldera time. Shortly before the 760-ka caldera-forming eruption, the mantle-driven focus of crustal melting shifted ∼20 km westward, abandoning its long-stable position under Glass Mountain and energizing instead the central Long Valley system that released 600 km3 of compositionally zoned rhyolitic Bishop Tuff (760 ka), followed by ∼100 km3of crystal-poor Early Rhyolite (760–650 ka) on the resurgent dome and later by three separate 5-unit clusters of varied Moat Rhyolites of small volume (527–101 ka). West of the caldera ring-fault zone, a fourth focus started up ∼160 ka, producing a 10×20-km array of at least 35 mafic vents that surround the trachydacite/alkalic rhyodacite Mammoth Mountain dome complex at its core. This young 70-vent system lies west of the structural caldera and (though it may have locally re-energized the western margin of the mushy moribund Long Valley reservoir) represents a thermally and compositionally independent focus. A fifth major discrete focus started up by ∼50 ka, 25–30 km north of Mammoth Mountain, beneath the center of what has become the Mono Craters chain. In the Holocene, this system advanced both north and south, producing ∼30 dike-fed domes of crystal-poor high-silica rhyolite, some as young as 650 years. The nearby chain of mid-to-late Holocene Inyo domes is a fault-influenced zone of mixing where magmas of at least four kinds are confluent. The sixth and youngest focus is at Mono Lake, where basalt, dacite, and low-silica rhyolite unrelated to the Mono Craters magma reservoir have erupted in the interval 14 to 0.25 ka. A compelling inference is that mantle-driven magmatic foci have moved repeatedly, allowing abandoned silicic reservoirs, including the formerly vigorous Long Valley magma chamber, to crystallize. A 100-fold decline of intracaldera eruption rate after 650 ka, lack of crystal-poor rhyolite since 300 ka, limited volumes of moat rhyolite (most of it crystal-rich), absence of postcaldera mafic volcanism inside the structural caldera (or north and south adjacent to it), low thermal gradients inside the caldera, and sourcing of hydrothermal underflow within the western array well outside the ring-fault zone all suggest that the Long Valley magma reservoir is moribund.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Volcanological perspectives on Long Valley, Mammoth Mountain, and Mono Craters: Several contiguous but discrete systems
Series title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2004.05.019
Volume 136
Issue 3-4
Year Published 2004
Language English
Contributing office(s) Volcano Hazards Program
Description 30 p.
First page 169
Last page 198
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Long Valley, Mammoth Mountain, and Mono Craters
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