Mafic magma replenishment, unrest and eruption in a caldera setting: insights from the 2006 eruption of Rabaul (Papua New Guinea)
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Understanding the magmatic processes that drive unrest at silicic calderas remains a major goal in Volcanology. Rabaul in Papua New Guinea is an exceptional location because after two decades of unrest and a peak in seismicity and deformation in 1983–85, eruptive activity began in 1994 and is still ongoing. A particularly large sub-Plinian eruption occurred from Tavurvur in October 2006. Whole-rock compositions are andesitic and reflect mixing/mingling between basaltic and dacitic magmas from the same system. The magmas that fed the 2006 eruption were stored at about 930°C, with 1–3 wt% H2O, 25–520 ppm CO2, and 50–2500 ppm SO2 in the melt. Melt inclusions hosted in pyroxene, and plagioclase phenocrysts record fractional crystallization at ≤200 MPa under relatively dry and poorly oxidizing conditions. Magma mixing/mingling is expressed as heterogeneous glass compositions, strongly zoned phenocrysts, and mafic crystal aggregates. A textural maturation from fine, acicular to large, blocky crystal clots implies different relative ages of formation. Modelling the chemical zoning of plagioclase shows that mafic–silicic interactions started a couple of decades prior to the 2006 eruption and continued until days to weeks prior to eruption. Basaltic replenishments have been driving unrest and eruption at the Rabaul caldera since the 1970s.