Scientific article

A Late Holocene explosive mafic eruption of Villarrica volcano, Southern Andes: The Chaimilla deposit

Published inJournal of volcanology and geothermal research, vol. 200, no. 3-4, p. 143-158
Publication date2011

Villarrica (Chile) is one of the most active volcanoes in South America having erupted about 60 times in the last 460 years. Although its historical eruptive activity has been mainly effusive and weakly explosive, it had strong explosive behaviour in postglacial times. Chaimilla (< 3.1 ka) is one of the best exposed and widely dispersed pyroclastic deposits, related to both fall and flow activity. The deposit is dispersed over an area of 250 km2 and consists of 8 units (A–H) which were grouped into four sequences. Stratigraphic data suggest that the eruption had a relatively short duration and evolved from i) an Opening phase, dispersing ash, lapilli clasts, accretionary lapilli, blocks and bombs, to ii) a Pulsatory phase, originating a series of magmatic explosions, to iii) a Collapsing phase, characterised by unstable plumes which emplaced a series of pyroclastic density currents intercalated with thin fallout layers and finally to iv) a Climactic phase forming a more sustained plume which eventually collapsed generating the final pyroclastic density currents. The deposit (fall and flow) has a minimum cumulative volume of 0.6 km3, with the main sustained phase being associated with a VEI 4 and the flow units having a minimum estimated total volume of 0.04 km3. The erupted material has a homogenous chemical composition but displays a remarkable variability in both textural and physical properties. The density distribution of juvenile products shows a clear bimodality characterised by two main populations: P1 and P2. Population P1 consists of highly vesicular clasts (modal density around 1000 kg m− 3) with mostly sub-spherical bubbles and moderately crystallised groundmass with large-sized microlites. Clasts from population P2 are poorly vesicular (modal density around 1600 kg m− 3) with irregular to collapsed bubbles and numerous smaller microlites. The variability of both vesicularity and microlite characteristics suggests the involvement of two magma batches with distinct pre-eruptive degassing and rising histories. Our eruption conceptual model implies the arrival of new magma (represented in the deposit by P1 clasts) into a small, outgassed magma body which was accumulated at shallow level (mainly represented by P2 clasts). A new Chaimilla-type eruption could significantly affect the communities that have recently developed around Villarrica volcano and subsist mainly on tourism and forestry. As a result, a better understanding of the dynamics and evolution of the Chaimilla eruption is necessary for the identification of potential hazard scenarios at Villarrica volcano and, ultimately, for the risk mitigation of this populated area of Southern Chile.

  • Basaltic explosive volcanism
  • Villarrica volcano
  • Clast microtextures
  • Basaltic explosive volcanism
  • Tephra deposits
Citation (ISO format)
COSTANTINI, Licia et al. A Late Holocene explosive mafic eruption of Villarrica volcano, Southern Andes: The Chaimilla deposit. In: Journal of volcanology and geothermal research, 2011, vol. 200, n° 3-4, p. 143–158. doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2010.12.010
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0377-0273

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