A sedimentological and geochemical approach to understanding cycles of stratovolcano growth and collapse at Mt Taranaki, New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Earth Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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The long-term behaviour of andesitic stratovolcanoes is characterised by a repetition of edifice growth and collapse phases. This cyclic pattern may represent a natural frequency at varying timescales in the growth dynamics of stratovolcanoes, but is often difficult to identify because of long cycle-timescales, coupled with incomplete stratigraphic records. The volcaniclastic ring-plain succession surrounding the 2 518 m Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand, comprises a wide variety of distinctive volcanic mass-flow lithofacies with sedimentary and lithology characteristics that can be related to recurring volcanic cycles over >190 ka. Debrisflow and monolithologic hyperconcentrated-flow deposits record edifice growth phases while polylithologic debris-avalanche and associated cohesive debris-flow units were emplaced by collapse. Major edifice failures at Mt. Taranaki occurred on-average every 10 ka, with five events recognised over the last 30 ka, a time interval for which stratigraphic records are more complete. The unstable nature of Mt. Taranaki mainly results from its weak internal composite structure including abundant saturated pyroclastic deposits and breccia layers, along with its growth on a weakly indurated and tectonically fractured basement of Tertiary mudstones and sandstones. As the edifice repeatedly grew beyond a critical stable height or profile, large-scale collapses were triggered by intrusions preceding magmatic activity, major eruptions, or significant regional tectonic fault movements. Clasts within debris-avalanche deposits were used as a series of windows into the composition of previous successive proto-Mt Taranaki edifices in order to examine magmatic controls on their failure. The diversity of lithologies and their geochemical characteristics are similar throughout the history of the volcano, with the oldest sample suites displaying a slightly broader range of compositions including more primitive rock types. The evolution to a narrower range and higher-silica compositions was accompanied by an increase in K2O. This shows that later melts progressively interacted with underplated amphibolitic material at the base of the crust. These gradual changes imply a long-term stability of the magmatic system. The preservation of similar internal conditions during the volcano’s evolution, hence suggests that external processes were the main driving force behind its cyclic growth and collapse behaviour and resulting sedimentation pattern.
Volcanology, Mount Taranaki, Mount Egmont, Volcanoes, Stratigraphic geology, Geochemistry, New Zealand, Mt Egmont, Mt Taranaki