Compositional heterogeneity of the Sugarloaf melilite nephelinite flow, Honolulu Volcanics, Hawai‘i

Document Type



The Sugarloaf flow is a melilite nephelinite erupted from the Tantalus rift during rejuvenated-stage volcanism on O‘ahu, the Honolulu Volcanics. The flow ponded in Mānoa Valley forming a ∼15 m thick flow which was cored and sampled in a quarry. Nepheline from a pegmatoid segregation in the flow yielded a 40Ar–39Ar age of 76 ka. This age, combined with others, indicates that the Tantalus rift eruptions are some of the youngest on O‘ahu. Honolulu Volcanics erupt on average about every 35–40 ka indicating that future eruptions are possible. We evaluated the compositional variability of 19 samples from the flow, including 14 from the core. Twelve samples are representative of the bulk flow, four are dark- or light-colored variants, one is a heavy rare earth element (REE)-enriched pegmatoid, and two visually resemble the bulk flow, but have chemical characteristics of the dark and light variants. Our objective was to determine intraflow heterogeneity in mineralogy and composition. Variable abundances of Na2O, K2O, Sr, Ba, Rb, Pb and U in the flow were caused by post-eruptive mobility in a vapor phase, most likely during or soon after flow emplacement, and heterogeneous deposition of secondary calcite and zeolites. Relative to fine-grained samples, a pegmatoid vein that crosscuts the flow is enriched in incompatible trace elements except Sr and TiO2. Element mobility after eruption introduced scatter in trace element ratios including light-REE/heavy-REE, and all ratios involving mobile elements K, Rb, Ba, Sr, Pb, and U. Lavas from some of the 37 Honolulu Volcanics vents have crosscutting REE patterns in a primitive mantle-normalized plot. Such patterns have been interpreted to reflect variable amounts of residual garnet during partial melting. Previous studies of lavas from different vents concluded that garnet, phlogopite, amphibole, and Fe–Ti oxides were residual phases of the partial melting processes that created the Honolulu Volcanics (Clague and Frey, 1982; Yang et al., 2003). However post-eruptive processes in the Sugarloaf flow also produced crossing REE patterns. Eruptions on the Tantalus rift, including the Sugarloaf flow, produced volatile- and crystal-rich ash with interstitial glass and melt inclusions in olivine containing 4.2–6.4 wt% MgO compared to the flow average of 11.8 wt%. This flow erupted as a partially crystallized viscous magma at least 100 °C below its liquidus. The slow advance and cooling of the 15-m thick ‘a’ ā low promoted the segregation of pegmatoids, formation of light and dark bands with differing proportions of melilite and clinopyroxene, and induced volatile-enhanced mobility of incompatible elements. © 2016 The Authors