tuff - student specimens of tan rhyolitic tuff with angular clasts - UNIT OF 5 SPECIMENS
This particular volcanic igneous rock is composed of volcanic ash and fragments of other igneous rocks that were ejected from vents during the eruption of the Long Valley Caldera 760,000 years ago. The ash and rock fragments were welded together, forming a tuff sheet over 300 feet thick. Over 600 cubic kilometers of material was ejected, with an ash fall blanketing much of the western United States from the Pacific Northwest to Nebraska for a period of roughly six days.
The Long Valley Caldera eruption was the culmination of approximately 4 million years of volcanic activity related to stretching associated with Basin and Range extensional tectonics. Evolved magma began to accumulate and differentiate about 1 million years ago in the mid-to-upper crust and by around 850 thousand years ago had become compositionally zoned. Magma shifted in composition from basaltic to rhyolitic. The Long Valley eruption was likely caused by a recharge event that injected additional magma into the Bishop magma chamber, with the extra heat and gas leading to an overpressure and eventual violent Plinian eruption with collapse of the overlying rock into the magma chamber. This was one of the largest Quaternary eruptions in the world.
Tuffs are light colored, usually shades of buff or gray, and since they are silica rich and iron and magnesium poor, they are not dense. This one has the typical angular rock fragments that were ripped from the walls of the vent welded into the ash. A student should know these fragments as clasts, from the Greek klastos for broken, and should know they are characteristic of tuffs. This tuff could easily be mistaken for a rhyolite, which has the same composition but is extruded as a lava flow, though the angular clasts tell you at a glance that this is a tuff. These are textbook specimens, with nothing to confuse the student.
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