The Taurewa Eruptive Episode: evidence for climactic eruptions at Ruapehu volcano, New Zealand

Research paper by Susan L. Donoghue, Alan S. Palmer, Elizabeth McClelland, Kate Hobson, Robert B. Stewart, Vincent E. Neall, Jèrôme Lecointre, Richard Price

Indexed on: 01 Sep '99Published on: 01 Sep '99Published in: Bulletin of Volcanology


 The ca. 10,500 years B.P. eruptions at Ruapehu volcano deposited 0.2–0.3 km3 of tephra on the flanks of Ruapehu and the surrounding ring plain and generated the only known pyroclastic flows from this volcano in the late Quaternary. Evidence of the eruptions is recorded in the stratigraphy of the volcanic ring plain and cone, where pyroclastic flow deposits and several lithologically similar tephra deposits are identified. These deposits are grouped into the newly defined Taurewa Formation and two members, Okupata Member (tephra-fall deposits) and Pourahu Member (pyroclastic flow deposits). These eruptions identify a brief (<ca. 2000-year) but explosive period of volcanism at Ruapehu, which we define as the Taurewa Eruptive Episode. This Episode represents the largest event within Ruapehu's ca. 22,500-year eruptive history and also marks its culmination in activity ca. 10,000 years B.P. Following this episode, Ruapehu volcano entered a ca. 8000-year period of relative quiescence. We propose that the episode began with the eruption of small-volume pyroclastic flows triggered by a magma-mingling event. Flows from this event travelled down valleys east and west of Ruapehu onto the upper volcanic ring plain, where their distal remnants are preserved. The genesis of these deposits is inferred from the remanent magnetisation of pumice and lithic clasts. We envisage contemporaneous eruption and emplacement of distal pumice-rich tephras and proximal welded tuff deposits. The potential for generation of pyroclastic flows during plinian eruptions at Ruapehu has not been previously considered in hazard assessments at this volcano. Recognition of these events in the volcanological record is thus an important new factor in future risk assessments and mitigation of volcanic risk at Tongariro Volcanic Centre.