Magnetic stratigraphy of Peralkaline Volcanism in Sierra Libre, Sonora, Mexico

A. E. Olguin-Villa, J. M. Stock, J. R. Vidal-Solano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Middle Miocene (~12 Ma) magmatism in NW Mexico was dominated by the appearance of anorogenic liquids associated with the Proto-Gulf of California. These correspond to a few occurrences of mafic volcanic rocks with transitional signatures (geochemically) and to a larger silicic volcanic event of peralkaline affinity. The silicic event is primarily composed of a large ignimbritic deposit widely recognized in Baja California as the Tuff of San Felipe (TSF), and in Sonora as the Hermosillo Ignimbrite. These are correlated by a number of characteristics including a unique low-inclination, reversed magnetization, probably associated with a field transition or a geomagnetic excursion within a reversed polarity subchron at 11.531-11.935 Ma (base of C5r.3r; Cande and Kent, 1995). Thick sections of deposits of this peralkaline volcanism crop out at Sierra Libre, geographically located ~45 km south of Hermosillo, Sonora. In this locality, a ~180m thick stack of middle Miocene volcanic units (both pyroclastic and lavas) were sampled for paleomagnetic studies focusing on the magnetic stratigraphy of a set of 9 units (7 to 12 cores per unit) from El Galindro Canyon, which represents the thickest volcanic pile genetically related to Tuff of San Felipe and Hermosillo ignimbrite. Previous studies indicated that the anomalous magnetization from TSF could be either an excursion or a reversal transition - its age is unconstrained except by direct radiological isotopes and relative stratigraphy. But most excursions recorded in high-deposition rate lakebeds, and less often in volcanic piles, trace simple "there-and-back" paths away from and returning to the ordinary geomagnetic secular variation locus for an age. By contrast, the Sierra Libre magnetizations wander erratically in declination and inclination, without following a simple sequential ''Path''. Polarity reversal transitions recorded in high-deposition rate lakebeds do behave that way. We therefore interpret TSF (and remarkably, most or all of the Sierra Libre peralkaline pile) as recording a reversal transition rather than an excursion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2011
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • 1520 GEOMAGNETISM AND PALEOMAGNETISM / Magnetostratigraphy
  • 1535 GEOMAGNETISM AND PALEOMAGNETISM / Reversals: process
  • timescale
  • magnetostratigraphy


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