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Title: Eruption and magma crystallization ages of Las Tres Vírgenes (Baja California) constrained by combined 230Th/238U and (U‐Th)/He dating of zircon
Authors: A.K. Schmitt, D.F. Stockli, and B.P. Hausback
Publication: Jour. Vol. Geotherm. Res., v. 158, p. 281‐295.
Publish Date: Nov 2006
DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2006.07.005
PDF: pdf
BibTEX Citation: Schmitt:2006.bib


Las Tres Vírgenes volcano is a calc‐alkaline composite cone located near the main Gulf of California escarpment on the E coast of the Baja California peninsula. High‐sensitivity ion microprobe U‐series (230Th/238U) ages for zircon from La Vírgen tephra average 121−10+12 ka (1σ; MSWD = 2.7), with discrete age peaks at ⁓100 and 160 ka. The noble gas mass spectrometric (U‐Th)/He zircon age, corrected for disequilibrium and pre‐eruptive storage, is 36 ± 3 ka. This result for the eruption age of La Vírgen tephra is significantly older than previously postulated historic or Holocene ages that were based on an 18th century map reference and 14C dating of accidental charcoal, respectively. The new (U−Th)/He zircon age is consistent with a > 26 ± 4 ka age derived from cosmogenic He exposure dating of an overlying basaltic lava flow [Hausback, B.P. and Abrams, M.J., 1996. Plinian eruption of La Virgen Tephra, Volcán Las Tres Virgenes, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 77(46, Suppl.): 813‐814.]. U‐Pb zircon analysis of ignimbrites erupted from the adjacent Early Pleistocene La Reforma and El Aguajito calderas yielded ages of 1.38 ± 0.03 Ma (n = 12; MSWD = 1.0) and 1.17 ± 0.07 Ma (n = 23; MSWD = 1.3), respectively. No evidence for these ages is found among La Vírgen zircons, whereas pre‐Quaternary zircon xenocrysts are common. The La Vírgen magma, therefore, evolved unrelated to Early Pleistocene magmatism in adjacent calderas, but assimilated local basement rocks. A gap between average Th‐U and (U‐Th)/He zircon ages suggests that zircon crystallization was discontinuous in the La Vírgen magma chamber. In addition, partial resorption of zircon suggests episodic thermal rejuvenation, most likely by basaltic recharge. Based on the zircon record, the >100 ka lifetime of the thermal anomaly that sustained repeated intrusive pulses significantly exceeds the age of the last eruption. This strengthens the view that Tres Vírgenes has a potential for future eruptions.