Dacitic ash-flow sheet near Superior and Globe, Arizona

Open-File Report 61-119




Remnants of a dacitic ash-flow sheet near Globe, Miama, and Superia, Arizona cover about 100 square miles; before erosion the area covered by the sheet was at least 400 square miles and perhaps as much as 1,500 square miles. Its maximum thickness is about 2,000 feet, its average thickness is about 500 feet, and its original volume was at least 40 cubic miles. It was erupted on an eroded surface with considerable relief. The main part of the deposit was thought by early workers to be a lava flow. Even after the distinctive character of welded tuffs and related rocks was discovered, the nature and origin of this deposit remained dubious because textures did not correspond to those in other welded tuff bodies. Yet a lava flow as silicic as this dacite would be viscous instead of spreading out as an extensive sheet. The purpose of this investigation has been to study the deposit, resolve the inconsistencies, and deduce its origin and history. Five stratigraphic zones are distinguished according to differences in the groundmass. From bottom to top the zones are basal tuff, vitrophyre, brown zone, gray zone, and white zone. The three upper zones are distinguished by colors on fresh surfaces, for each weathers to a similar shade of light reddish brown. Nonwelded basal tuff grades upward into the vitrophyre, which is a highly welded tuff. The brown and gray zones consist of highly welded tuff with a lithoidal groundmass. Degree of welding decreases progressively upward through the gray and the white zones, and the upper white zone is nonwelded. Textures are clearly outlined in the lower part of the brown zone, but upward they become more diffuse because of increasing devitrification. In the white zone, original textures are essentially obliterated, and the groundmass consists of spherulites and microcrystalline intergrowths. The chief groundmass minerals are cristobalite and sanidine, with lesser quartz and plagioclase. Phenocrysts comprise about 40 percent of the rock, and their relative proportions are fairly uniform. Almost three-fourths of the phenocrysts are plagioclase, one-tenth quartz, one-tenth biotite, and the remainder sanidine, magnetite, and hornblende, with accessory sphene, zircon, and appetite. Pumice fragments are nearly equidimensional near the top of the sheet, and downward they become progressively more flattened until they finally disappear. The zones and the pumice fragment flattening ration (ratio of length to height) provide means for recognizing several faults within the sheet. Twelve new chemical analyses are nearly uniform in composition. If named according to chemical composition, the rock would be a quartz latite, but when named according to phenocrysts, it is a dacite. From the field occurrence and the interpretation of relict textures, it is concluded that the deposit is an ash-flow sheet containing large amounts of welded tuff, and that it was emplaced by a type of nuee ardente instead of a lava flow or air-fall shower. The nature of zoning and trend of flattening ratios indicate a series of eruptions in rapid enough succession for the sheet to form a single cooling unit. Except in the lower part of the sheet, original textures were obscured by devitrification and crystallization during cooling. Nearly uniform mineralogy and chemistry suggest a single magnetic source. A nearly circular area, about 3? miles in diameter, of altered dacite and earlier volcanic rocks, bounded by intricately faulted and brecciated older rocks, may be the site of a caldera that represents the source of the eruptions.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Dacitic ash-flow sheet near Superior and Globe, Arizona
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey,
x, 130 p. :ill., maps (some col.) ;27 cm.