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The Petrology and Genesis of Silicic Magmas in the Kermadec Arc

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Version 2 2023-03-13, 23:48
Version 1 2021-11-10, 19:13
posted on 2023-03-13, 23:48 authored by Barker, Simon James

Recent work has shown that silicic volcanism can be abundant in intra-oceanic subduction settings, and is often associated with large explosive caldera-forming eruptions. Several major petrogenetic questions arise over the origin and eruption of large amounts of silicic magma at these relatively simple subduction settings. This study has investigated the geochemistry of pyroclasts collected from four volcanoes along the Kermadec arc, a young (<2 Myr) oceanic subduction zone in the southwest Pacific. Raoul, Macauley and a newly discovered volcano (here informally named 'New volcano') in the northern Kermadec arc, and Healy volcano in the southern Kermadec arc have all erupted dacitic to rhyolitic pumice within the last 10 kyr. For Raoul, New volcano and Healy, whole rock major element compositions fall with a limited compositional range. In contrast, pumice dredged from around Macauley caldera covers a wide compositional range indicating that there have been multiple silicic eruptions, not just the Sandy Bay Tephra exposed on Macauley Island. Distinctive crystal populations in both pumice samples and plutonic xenoliths suggest that many of the crystals did not grow in the evolved magmas, but were mixed in from other sources including gabbros and tonalites. Such open system mixing is ubiquitous in magmas from the four Kermadec volcanoes studied here. Silicic magmas, co-eruptive mafic enclaves and previously erupted basalts show sub-parallel REE patterns, and crystal composition and zonation suggests that mafic and silicic magmas have a strong genetic affiliation. Examination of whole rock, glass and mineral chemistry reveals that evolved magmas can be generated at each volcano through 60-75% crystal fractionation of a basaltic parent. These findings are not consistent with silicic magma generation via crustal anatexis, as previously suggested for the Kermadec arc. Although crystallisation is the dominant process driving melt evolution in the Kermadec volcanoes, the magmatic systems are open to contributions from both newly arriving melts and wholly crystalline plutonic bodies. Such processes occur in variable proportions between magma batches, and are largely reflected by small scale chemical variations between eruption units. Larger scale chemical trends reflect the position of the volcanoes along the arc, which in turn may reflect structural changes in the subduction zone and variations in sediment influx.


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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

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Baker, Joel; Wilson, Colin