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Evidence for late Pleistocene volcanism at Santa Maria Island, Azores?

Ramalho, Ricardo S., Quartau, Rui, Hóskuldsson, Ármann, Madeira, José, da Cruz, João Ventura and Rodrigues, Aurora 2020. Evidence for late Pleistocene volcanism at Santa Maria Island, Azores? Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 394 , 106829. 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2020.106829

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Santa Maria Island constitutes the oldest volcanic island within the Azores Archipelago, with no onshore record of eruptions younger than ≈2.8 Ma. A recent high-resolution multibeam bathymetric survey, however, revealed the presence of a seemingly young submerged wide volcanic edifice at approximately −70/−80 m, on the northeastern sector of the island shelf. The outer flanks of this volcanic edifice are partially eroded by marine erosion, but its general morphology is largely preserved, attesting to its relative youth. The edifice's aspect ratio and crater size are typical of a tuff ring formed by very violent surtseyan to taalian eruptions (with water/magma interaction ratios close to 1), implying extrusion at sea level or in very shallow waters, conditions that are incompatible with the present-day water depth at which this structure occurs. A detailed geomorphological analysis – coupled with a correlation with a modified reference eustatic curve – allowed the formulation and discussion of a formation model for the tuff ring, which involves extrusion during a period immediately preceding a rapid relative sea-level drop, most likely at ≈43 ka. Extrusion during such a period would have allowed for the subaerial consolidation and palagonitization of the tuff ring, increasing its resistance to erosion, before being finally submerged during the Last Glacial Termination. Submersion during the Last Glacial Termination – a period characterised by extremely fast sea-level rise – also helps to explain why this tuff ring was submerged without being completely razed by marine erosion. Our study offers insights on the formation and preservation of tuff rings in coastal environments, and in relation to sea-level oscillations, suggesting that consolidation plays a crucial role in the process. Crucially, our study suggests that Santa Maria's volcanism might have extended well into the very late Pleistocene, raising important hazard implications. Future work is scheduled to confirm this hypothesis, including sampling of the volcanic products by dredging and/or by remote operated vehicle. Our study also emphasises the importance of available high-resolution bathymetric surveys to the formulation of solid volcanic hazard assessments on volcanic islands.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0377-0273
Date of Acceptance: 25 February 2020
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2021 16:15

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