Waters, Laura E. and Andrews, Benjamin J. 2016. "The role of superheating in the formation of Glass Mountain obsidians (Long Valley, CA) inferred through crystallization of sanidine." Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 171 (10):79. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00410-016-1291-3
The Glass Mountain obsidians (Long Valley, CA) are crystal poor (<8 vol%) and highly evolved (high SiO2, low Sr), and therefore, their formation required extremely efficient separation of melts from a crystal-rich source. A petrologic and experimental investigation of the mineral phases in Glass Mountain lavas identifies conditions under which phenocrysts grew and the driving mechanism for crystallization, which places constraints on the possible processes that generated the obsidians. The obsidian in this study (GM-11) is saturated in nine phases (sanidine quartz plagioclase titanomagnetite ilmenite zircon apatite allanite biotite), and results of high-resolution SEM compositional mapping and electron microprobe analysis reveal that individual sanidine crystals are normally zoned and span a range of compositions (Or40–78). Sanidines have a “granophyric” texture, characterized by intergrowths of quartz and sanidine. Mineral phases in the natural sample are compared to H2O-saturated phase equilibrium experiments conducted in cold-seal pressure vessels, over a range of conditions (700–850 °C; 75–225 MPa), and all are found to be plausible phenocrysts. Comparison of sanidine compositions from the natural sample with those grown in phase equilibrium experiments demonstrates that sanidine in the natural sample occurs in a reduced abundance. Further comparison with phase equilibrium experiments suggests that sanidine compositions track progressive loss of dissolved melt water (±cooling), suggesting that crystallization in the natural obsidian was driven predominantly by degassing resulting from decompression. It is paradoxical that an effusively (slowly) erupted lava should contain multiple phenocryst phases, including sanidine crystals that span a range of compositions with granophyric textures, and yet remain so crystal poor. To resolve this paradox, it is necessary that the solidification mechanism (degassing or cooling) that produced the sanidine crystals (and other mineral phases) must have an associated kinetic effect(s) that efficiently hinders crystal nucleation and growth. Decompression experiments conducted in this study and from the literature collectively demonstrate that the simplest way to inhibit nucleation during degassing-induced crystallization is to initiate degassing ± cooling from superliquidus conditions, and therefore, the Glass Mountain obsidians were superheated prior to crystallization.