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Some Studies of the Geology, Volcanic History, and Geothermal Resources of the Okataina Volcanic Centre, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand

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posted on 08.11.2021, 20:22 authored by Nairn, Ian Alistair

Okataina Volcanic Centre is the most recently active of the four major rhyolite eruptive centres in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of New Zealand. Within the Centre lies Haroharo Caldera, a complex of overlapping collapse structures resulting from successive voluminous pyroclastic eruptions from the same general source area. At least four main and possibly two minor caldera-forming eruptions have occurred during the last 250,000 years, although poor exposure means that attempts to interpret the early structural history are highly speculative. Although there is no compelling evidence of structural updoming within Haroharo Caldera, magma resurgence has followed the last major caldera-forming eruption of the Rotoiti Breccia at [greater than or equal to] 42,000 years B.P. Eruption of this magma within the caldera has formed the two large rhyolite lava and pyroclastic piles of the Haroharo Volcanic Complex and Tarawera Volcanic Complex, plus two subsidiary adjacent complexes at Okareka and Rotoma. All these intracaldera eruptives are younger than 20,000 years B.P., with the most recent eruptions from Tarawera; of rhyolite at c. 700 years B.P., and of basalt in 1886 A.D. A considerable amount of earlier work carried out at Okataina was directed mainly at petrology and chemistry of the rhyolites forming the Tarawera and Haroharo Volcanic Complexes. The present study has arisen from a 1:50,000 mapping programme at Okataina and has sought to examine structures and volcanic history in greater detail, and to consider the resulting geological implications for geothermal resources. Caldera boundaries have been mapped, and two major vent lineations are defined, apparently related to fundamental basement fractures which have controlled location of the Tarawera and Haroharo Volcanic Complexes. An intracaldera ring fault is also suggested by the sub-circular arrangement of some young volcanic vents. The Haroharo and Tarawera Complexes are mapped, with locations of source vents, and dating of the major lavas and pyroclastic deposits. All the post-20,000 year eruptives are placed in four main emptive episodes at Haroharo, and five at Tarawera. The near-source pyroclastic surge and flow deposits are 14C dated, and with their associated widespread plinian fall deposits they provide time planes for dating the associated lavas. The emptive episodes generally appear to have been of much shorter duration than the intervening quiescent periods which lasted for thousands of years. All the eruptive episodes at Haroharo involved multiple eruptions from vents spread out over several kilometres along the vent lineations. Similar multiple vent eruptions can be demonstrated for some of the Tarawera eruptive episodes. More than 500 km3 of magma has been erupted from Haroharo Caldera during the last 250,000 years, 80 km3 of which was erupted in the Last 20,000 years. This history suggests that a large magmatic heat source should continue to underlie the Okataina Volcanic Centre. However, very little surface hydrothermal activity occurs within Haroharo Caldera. It is suggested that the large external hydrothermal fields at Tikitere, Waimangu-Waiotapu-Waikite, and possibly Kawerau, are related to Haroharo Caldera heat sources. Presently available data are summarized for hydrothermal fields in and adjacent to Haroharo Caldera, and new analyses are presented for some warm springs discovered within the caldera. Estimates and measurements of chloride fluxes in lakes and rivers are reported. The chloride flux values suggest the occurrence of larger hydrothermal heat flows into lakes and rivers than are apparent at the surface. Measurements of chloride flux in the Tarawera River showed that 280 g s-1 of chloride is added to the river within Haroharo Caldera below the Lake Tarawera outlet. Only 80 g s-1 of this chloride comes from known geothermal sources. A total chloride flux of 760 g s-1 in the Tarawera River passing out of the Okataina Volcanic Centre indicates a minimum geothermal heat flow of 600 MW. Estimates of heat flows in other drainage paths from Haroharo Caldera suggest that minimum total heat flow from the caldera may exceed 1500 MW. A large heat flow from the caldera would appear consistent with the volcanic history. Some suggestions are made for further investigation of the geothermal resources


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Cole, J W; Clark, R H