New Volcanic Futures

Distal record of multi-sourced tephra in Onepoto Basin, Auckland, New Zealand: implications for volcanic chronology, frequency and hazards

Economic Impact & Health & Wellbeing | Mount Taranaki | 12.05.2023


We have documented 80 tephra beds dating from ca. 9.5 to >50 ka, contained within continuously deposited palaeolake sediments from Onepoto Basin, a volcanic explosion crater in Auckland, New Zealand. The known sources for distal (>190 km from vent) tephra include the rhyolitic Taupo Volcanic Centre (4) and Okataina Volcanic Centre (14), and the andesitic Taranaki volcano (40) and Tongariro Volcanic Centre (3). The record provides evidence for four new events between ca. 50 and 28 ka (Mangaone Subgroup) suggesting Okataina was more active than previously known. The tephra record also greatly extends the known northern dispersal of other Mangaone Subgroup tephra. Ten rhyolitic tephra pre-date the Rotoehu eruption (>ca. 50 ka), and some are chemically dissimilar to post-50 ka rhyolites. Some of these older tephra were produced by large-magnitude events; however, their source remains uncertain. Eight tephra from the local basaltic Auckland Volcanic Field (AVF) are also identified. Interpolation of sedimentation rates allow us to estimate the timing of 12 major explosive eruptions from Taranaki volcano in the 27.5–9.5-ka period. In addition, 28 older events are recognised. The tephra are trachytic to rhyolitic in composition. All have high K2O contents (>3 wt%), and there are no temporal trends. This contrasts with the proximal lava record that shows a trend of increasing K2O with time. By combining the Onepoto tephra record with that of the previously documented Pukaki crater, 15 AVF basaltic fall events are constrained at: 34.6, 30.9, 29.6, 29.6, 25.7, 25.2, 24.2, 23.8, 19.4, 19.4, 15.8 and 14.5 ka, and three pre-50 ka events. This provides some of the best age constraints for the AVF, and the only reliable data for hazard recurrence calculations. The minimum event frequency of both distal and local fall events can be estimated, and demonstrates the Auckland City region is frequently impacted by ash fall from many volcanoes.