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Quaternary Volcanism And Faulting At O’A Caldera, Central Ethiopian Rift

P. Mohr, J. Mitchell, R. G. Raynolds
Published 1980 · Geology

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O’a is the largest of the Quaternary caldera volcanoes that punctuate the axis of the Ethiopian rift valley. The known volcanic history of O’a is brief: eruptions of restricted ash-flow tuffs and «tufolavas» were followed by extensive pumice deposition with intervening paleosols, lacustrine sediments, and flows of occasional welded tuffs and rare basalts. Ensuing caldera collapse at c. 0.24 m.y. ago was accompanied by emplacement of two massive ignimbrite flow units comprising a single cooling unit: the first was much more severely welded than the second which shows lahar characteristics. Post-caldera volcanism at O’a has been sparse compared with most other Ethiopian rift centres.O’a volcano exemplifies the common rift association of a caldera set tightly between two offset segments of the Wonji fault belt. The Wonji fault belt marks the youngest tectonism of the rift floor, and in the vicinity of O’a has been active in a major way since caldera subsidence. This faulting is clearly younger than the massive rift margin faulting, which to the northeast of O’a occurred during a tectonic climax dated at c. 1.0 m.y. ago.Radiometric analysis suggests a rather regular level of initial40Ar in O’a basalt lavas sampled near to their original vents. If this level also applies to near-vent basalts dated from other parts of the Ethiopian rift, a regional rift paroxysm of crustal extension and related silicic and basaltic volcanism is evident at c. 0.30–0.20 m.y. ago. Episodic dilatation and associated volcano-tectonism separated by long periods of quiescence appears to be a general feature of continental rift valleys.

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