Petrogenesis of the Sólheimar ignimbrite (Katla, Iceland): Implications for tephrostratigraphy

Emma Tomlinson, Thor Thordarson, Christine S. Lane, Victoria C. Smith, Christina J. Manning, Wolfgang Müller, Martin A. Menzies

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The Sólheimar ignimbrite was one of the largest eruptions from the Katla caldera (Iceland) and is important for tephra studies in the North Atlantic because of its possible linkage with the Vedde Ash, a compositionally bimodal tephra layer used for correlation of sedimentary records in the North Atlantic and Northern Europe. The composition of the Sólheimar ignimbrite extends from rhyolite to basaltic-icelandite, a trend that defines a coherent magma mixing line. Mixing is evident both in mingled textures seen in hand specimens and thin sections and as binary mixing trends in major and trace element and 87Sr/86Sr isotopes of the volcanic glasses. The Sólheimar rhyolite is slightly more radiogenic than the basaltic-icelandite in terms of Sr isotopes, which is inconsistent with generation of the rhyolite by fractionation of the basaltic-icelandite. Alternatively, the Sólheimar rhyolite may have been produced by partial melting of Icelandic crust. Major and trace element modelling indicates that partial melting of Icelandic tholeiite does not replicate the observed rhyolite composition, in particular K2O is significantly lower in the modelled melt. However, partial melting of Katla alkali basalt does produce a comparable melt. We suggest a two-stage model in which 30–40% melting of basalt generated a dacitic magma which underwent subsequent ∼30% fractionation of the observed phenocryst phases (feldspar, clinopyroxene, spinel and FeTi oxide) form rhyolite. The eruption of the Sólheimar ignimbrite was triggered by the intrusion of basaltic-icelandite magma, which mixed with resident rhyolite magma during eruption.

The Sólheimar ignimbrite has been linked to the Vedde Ash (Lacasse etal., 1995), a compositionally bimodal tephra layer used to link sedimentary records in the North Atlantic and Northern Europe. Despite the importance of the Vedde Ash in late Quaternary studies, its provenance remains equivocal. We demonstrate that Vedde rhyolite glasses share the same major and trace element chemistry as the Sólheimar rhyolite, carrying the implication that these deposits may be produced by the same eruption. However, the Sólheimar ignimbrite lacks the basaltic component that is sometimes associated with rhyolitic shards of the Vedde Ash at far distal locations, therefore this correlation cannot be confirmed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318–337
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Early online date17 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012

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