The Silent Canyon caldera: a three-dimensional model as part of a Pahute Mesa-Oasis Valley, Nevada, hydrogeologic model

Open-File Report 2001-297

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A 3-dimensional caldera model based on gravity inversion, drill-hole data, and geologic mapping offers the framework for a hydrogeologic evaluation of the Silent Canyon caldera in the central part of Pahute Mesa, Nevada. It has been recognized for several decades that the central part of Pahute Mesa is the site of a buried caldera called the Silent Canyon caldera. Conceptually, the structural framework of the Silent Canyon caldera is based on the idea of collapse of the caldera roof over a shallow magma chamber to form a structural basin following violent volcanic eruptions. Calderas are common in certain volcanic regions of the world, and most well-exposed calderas are broadly similar to each other, particularly the arcuate or circular shape of their collapse depression. There are other reasons for modeling the Silent Canyon caldera as a circular feature in addition to knowledge that calderas throughout the world are generally circular features. The Silent Canyon caldera is the site of one of the largest gravity lows in the Western United States, indicating a thick accumulation of low-density rocks such as lavas and tuffs—a fact confirmed by drilling on Pahute Mesa. This gravity low is bowl-shaped, and the uppermost volcanic units on Pahute Mesa form a circular outcrop pattern of inward-dipping tuff interpreted to be the result of their filling the upper part of the bowl-shaped depression. Together, these features are consistent with, and indicative of, a circular collapse structural model for the Silent Canyon caldera. The collapse depression of the Silent Canyon caldera, bounded by arcuate faults, is filled with as much as 6 km (19,800 ft) of volcanic and sedimentary rocks that are considerably less dense than the underlying and surrounding basement rocks. The boundary surface between less dense caldera fill and more dense basement is modeled as the caldera ring fault. Rocks in the upper part of the caldera fill are penetrated by drilling, and the drill-hole data are the basis for 3-dimensional computer modeling of the thickness and distribution of the rock units. The displacement on younger N-S faults that cut the caldera is also determined by offset of the computer derived surfaces defined by the drill-hole intercepts of stratigraphic units.

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USGS Numbered Series
The Silent Canyon caldera: a three-dimensional model as part of a Pahute Mesa-Oasis Valley, Nevada, hydrogeologic model
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center
13 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Pahute Mesa-oasis Valley