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New journal paper uncovers origins of Valles caldera eruptions

Researchers examining numerous ash layers exposed in canyons on the flanks of Valles caldera.
(click for a larger version)
Photo by Matt Zimmerer

October 24, 2023

A recent paper in the Journal of Petrology provides new insights into the events that immediately preceded the last caldera-forming eruption in the Jemez Mountains volcanic field. The study was led by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. The Jemez Mountains of north-central New Mexico are home to the state’s supervolcano—Valles caldera. By using a combination of geochemical analyses, experiments, detailed mineralogical investigations, and high-precision radiometric ages determined from the bureau’s geochronology lab, the team was able to document significant changes in the magmatic system in the approximately 10,000 years prior to the supereruption. The study discusses when and how some of the largest volcanoes awoke to produce catastrophic eruptions!