Petrological imaging of an active pluton beneath Cerro Uturuncu, Bolivia

Research paper by Duncan D. Muir, Jon D. Blundy, Michael C. Hutchinson, Alison C. Rust

Indexed on: 20 Feb '14Published on: 20 Feb '14Published in: Contributions to mineralogy and petrology. Beitrage zur Mineralogie und Petrologie


Uturuncu is a dormant volcano in the Altiplano of SW Bolivia. A present day ~70 km diameter interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) anomaly roughly centred on Uturuncu’s edifice is believed to be a result of magma intrusion into an active crustal pluton. Past activity at the volcano, spanning 0.89 to 0.27 Ma, is exclusively effusive and almost all lavas and domes are dacitic with phenocrysts of plagioclase, orthopyroxene, biotite, ilmenite and Ti-magnetite plus or minus quartz, and microlites of plagioclase and orthopyroxene set in rhyolitic groundmass glass. Plagioclase-hosted melt inclusions (MI) are rhyolitic with major element compositions that are similar to groundmass glasses. H2O concentrations plotted versus incompatible elements for individual samples describe a trend typical of near-isobaric, volatile-saturated crystallisation. At 870 °C, the average magma temperature calculated from Fe–Ti oxides, the average H2O of 3.2 ± 0.7 wt% and CO2 typically <160 ppm equate to MI trapping pressures of 50–120 MPa, approximately 2–4.5 km below surface. Such shallow storage precludes the role of dacite magma emplacement into pre-eruptive storage regions as being the cause of the observed InSAR anomaly. Storage pressures, whole-rock (WR) chemistry and phase assemblage are remarkably consistent across the eruptive history of the volcano, although magmatic temperatures calculated from Fe–Ti oxide geothermometry, zircon saturation thermometry using MI and orthopyroxene-melt thermometry range from 760 to 925 °C at NNO ± 1 log. This large temperature range is similar to that of saturation temperatures of observed phases in experimental data on Uturuncu dacites. The variation in calculated temperatures is attributed to piecemeal construction of the active pluton by successive inputs of new magma into a growing volume of plutonic mush. Fluctuating temperatures within the mush can account for sieve-textured cores and complex zoning in plagioclase phenocrysts, resorption of quartz and biotite phenocrysts and apatite microlites. That Fe–Ti oxide temperatures vary by ~50–100 °C in a single thin section indicates that magmas were not homogenised effectively prior to eruption. Phenocryst contents do not correlate with calculated magmatic temperatures, consistent with crystal entrainment from the mush during magma ascent and eruption. Microlites grew during ascent from the magma storage region. Variability in the proportion of microlites is attributed to differing ascent and effusion rates with faster rates in general for lavas >0.5 Ma compared to those <0.5 Ma. High microlite contents of domes indicate that effusion rates were probably slowest in dome-forming eruptions. Linear trends in WR major and trace element chemistries, highly variable, bimodal mineral compositions, and the presence of mafic enclaves in lavas demonstrate that intrusion of more mafic magmas into the evolving, shallow plutonic mush also occurred further amplifying local temperature fluctuations. Crystallisation and resorption of accessory phases, particularly ilmenite and apatite, can be detected in MI and groundmass glass trace element covariation trends, which are oblique to WRs. Marked variability of Ba, Sr and La in MI can be attributed to temperature-controlled, localised crystallisation of plagioclase, orthopyroxene and biotite within the evolving mush.