Geochemical fingerprinting of volcanic airfall deposits: A tool in stratigraphic correlation

Soumava Adhya 2009
A Dissertation Submitted to the State University of New York at Albany in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
Advisor: J.W. Delano

    Chemical fingerprints of volcanic airfall deposits obtained from high-precision electron microprobe analysis of glass and phenocrysts phases provide geochemical correlations with temporal precision unattainable by other methods. In this research electron microprobe analysis (EMA) techniques, to fingerprint chemically and correlate fresh and altered volcanic airfall deposits, have been utilized to test the value of this tool for future research on stratigraphic correlation. The following samples were chosen from within a variety of sedimentary rocks widely separated spatially and temporally:
    ~450 Ma old upper Middle Ordovician K-bentonites (altered volcanic airfall deposits) collected from eastern United States.
    Relatively fresh Pleistocene tuff from ~74 ka old Youngest Toba Tuff (YTT) eruption in Sumatra (Indonesia).
    Fresh Pleistocene volcanic ash from India, and Sulu Sea ODP cores.
This research confirms 14 K-bentonite correlations, of which 10 are reported for the first time, based on chemical compositions of apatite phenocrysts and melt inclusions in quartz phenocrysts. Significant K-bentonite research findings include:
    1. Chemical correlation of Hounsfield K-bentonite and the Milibrig K-bentonite.
    2. Several new chemical correlations of K-bentonite beds from within the Ordovician rocks in Taconic foreland basin.
    3. Melt inclusion chemistry might be the more effective tool for differentiating closely spaced K-bentonites than that of apatite.

Biotite phenocrysts, melt inclusions in quartz and plagioclase phenocrysts, and glass shard chemistry of proximal and distal YTT ash successfully discriminate it with other closely spaced ash layers. This research reports for the first time, the presence of melt inclusion bearing plagioclase from Pleistocene volcanic ash from India and correlates it chemically to the YTT. The Pleistocene ash from Sulu Sea ODP was not produced by YTT eruption.
The best discriminating elements observed are:
    1. Toba biotites - Mn, Ti, Cl, Mg and Fe.
    2. Ordovician apatites - Mn, Mg, Fe, Cl, and F (new finding).
    3. Melt inclusions and glass shards - Ca, Fe, Mg, Mn, Cl, Ti, K and Na.
Using a dual approach, i.e., glass as well as phenocryst chemical signatures, makes a better tool for differentiating or correlating vertically closely spaced or geographically widely spaced volcanic airfall deposits.

Adhya, S., 2009. Geochemical fingerprinting of volcanic airfall deposits: A tool in stratigraphic correlation. Unpublished PhD dissertation, State University of New York at Albany.  346 pp., + xi, +186 pp. appendices.
University at Albany Science Library call number:  SCIENCE MIC Film QE 40 Z899 2009 A34
Copies of this PhD dissertation can be ordered from Proquest UMI (a digital text pdf is available, with colour photos and diagrams; 9MB)

        Front matter (title, table of contents, abstract, acknowledgements) - 0.16MB pdf file

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