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Geological evolution of the Coombs-Allan Hills area, Ferrar large igneous province, Antarctica: debris avalanches, mafic pyroclastic density currents, phreatocauldrons


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Ross, Pierre-Simon; White, James D. L. et McClintock, Murray (2008). Geological evolution of the Coombs-Allan Hills area, Ferrar large igneous province, Antarctica: debris avalanches, mafic pyroclastic density currents, phreatocauldrons Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research , vol. 172 , nº 1-2. pp. 38-60. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2005.11.011.

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The Jurassic Ferrar large igneous province of Antarctica comprises igneous intrusions, flood lavas, and mafic volcaniclastic deposits (now lithified). The latter rocks are particularly diverse and well-exposed in the Coombs-Allan Hills area of South Victoria Land, where they are assigned to the Mawson Formation. In this paper we use these rocks in conjunction with the pre-Ferrar sedimentary rocks (Beacon Supergroup) and the lavas themselves (Kirkpatrick Basalt) to reconstruct the geomorphological and geological evolution of the landscape. In the Early Jurassic, the surface of the region was an alluvial plain, with perhaps 1 km of mostly continental siliciclastic sediments underlying it. After the fall of silicic ash from an unknown but probably distal source, mafic magmatism of the Ferrar province began. The oldest record of this event at Allan Hills is a ≤ 180 m-thick debris avalanche deposit (member m₁ of the Mawson Formation) which contains globular domains of mafic igneous rock. These domains are inferred to represent dismembered Ferrar intrusions emplaced in the source area of the debris avalanche; shallow emplacement of Ferrar magmas caused a slope failure that mobilized the uppermost Beacon Supergroup, and the silicic ash deposits, into a pre-existing valley or basin. The period which followed (‘Mawson time’) was the main stage for explosive eruptions in the Ferrar province, and several cubic kilometres of both new magma and sedimentary rock were fragmented over many years. Phreatomagmatic explosions were the dominant fragmentation mechanism, with magma-water interaction taking place in both sedimentary aquifers and existing vents filled by volcaniclastic debris. At Coombs Hills, a vent complex or ‘phreatocauldron’ was formed by coalescence of diatreme-like structures; at Allan Hills, member m₂ of the Mawson Formation consists mostly of thick, coarse-grained, poorly sorted layers inferred to represent the lithified deposits of pyroclastic density currents. Meanwhile at Carapace Nunatak, mafic clasts were mixed with detrital material to form the Carapace Sandstone in alluvial and eventually lacustrine environments. Eruptions then became largely effusive, producing hundreds of metres of flood lavas that covered the landscape (‘Kirkpatrick time’). In places, lava flowed into ephemeral lakes to form pillow-palagonite breccias (base of sequence, Carapace Nunatak) or pillow lavas (top of sequence, Coombs Hills). Several generations of Ferrrar intrusions were emplaced during the course of these events; at least three can be distinguished based on field relations. New geochemical data indicates that for the Ferrar province, magma involved in the explosive eruptions had the same major element composition as that which produced shallow intrusions and lavas. We also note the possibility that flood lavas were fed by plugs cross-cutting the Mawson Formation at Coombs Hills, rather than by major dikes extending to the surface. Finally, we infer that eruption plumes were limited to the troposphere and that direct environmental impacts were thus likely restricted to the southern hemisphere.

Type de document: Article
Mots-clés libres: Allan Hills; Antarctique; Coombs Hills; Ferrar; basalte de Kirkpatrick; grande province ignée; formation de Mawson
Centre: Centre Eau Terre Environnement
Date de dépôt: 17 déc. 2013 22:04
Dernière modification: 11 janv. 2017 20:53
URI: https://espace.inrs.ca/id/eprint/1900

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