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New Bureau of Geology paper examines New Mexico’s volcanic past and related hazards

Photographs showing the diversity of late Quaternary (<500,000 years) volcanic eruptions and their deposits in New Mexico.
(click for a larger version)

April 5, 2024

A new paper by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology sheds light on the volcanic hazards of New Mexico. The paper titled “A temporal dissection of late Quaternary volcanism and related hazards within the Rio Grande rift and along the Jemez lineament of New Mexico, USA” was just published in the Geological Society of America’s journal Geosphere. A 10-year effort to determine the timing of nearly all the eruptions in the state during the past 500,000 years produced close to 200 new ages, most of which were generated in the bureau’s geochronology lab. The ages were used to determine recurrence intervals and volcanic migration patterns, which are common parameters used to characterize volcanic hazards. Some significant findings are (1) most volcanic fields contain eruptions that are younger than previously known; (2) most fields contain more late Quaternary eruptions than previously thought; (3) nearly all the fields show a migration pattern to the east, although that pattern is highly variable; and (4) the average eruptive recurrence interval is between 2,000 and 3,000 years. Although more work will be needed to fill in data gaps and expand to other regions of the American Southwest, the paper presents a major leap forward in our understanding of the youngest series of volcanic eruptions in New Mexico.