Holocene-Neogene volcanism in northeastern Australia: Chronology and eruption history

Benjamin E. Cohen*, Darren F. Mark, Stewart J. Fallon, P. Jon Stephenson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Quaternary and late Neogene volcanism is widespread in northeastern Australia, producing at least 397 eruptions covering more than 20,000 km2, including at least 20 flows over 50 km long. Despite this abundance of young volcanism, before this study numerous eruptions had tentative ages or were undated, and the area requires a comprehensive evaluation of eruption patterns through time. To help address these issues we applied multi-collector ARGUS-V 40Ar/39Ar geochronology to determine the age of four of the younger extensive flows: Undara (160 km long, 189 ± 4/4 ka; 2σ, with full analytical/external uncertainties), Murronga (40 km long, 153 ± 5/5 ka), Toomba (120 km long, 21 ± 3/3 ka), and Kinrara (55 km long, 7 ± 2/2 ka). Verbal traditions of the Gugu Badhun Aboriginal people contain features that may potentially describe the eruption of Kinrara. If the traditions do record this eruption, they would have been passed down for 230 ± 70 generations – a period of time exceeding the earliest written historical records. To further examine north Queensland volcanism through time we compiled a database of 337 ages, including 179 previously unpublished K-Ar and radiocarbon results. The compiled ages demonstrate that volcanic activity has occurred without major time breaks since at least 9 Ma. The greatest frequency of eruptions occurred in the last 2 Ma, with an average recurrence interval of <10–22 ka between eruptions. Activity was at times likely more frequent than these calculations indicate, as the geochronologic dataset is incomplete, with undated eruptions, and intraplate volcanism is often episodic. The duration, frequency, and youthfulness of activity indicate that north Queensland volcanism should be considered as potentially still active, and there are now two confirmed areas of Holocene volcanism in eastern Australia – one at each end of the continent. More broadly, our data provides another example of 40Ar/39Ar geochronology applied to Holocene and latest Pleistocene mafic eruptions, further demonstrating that this method has the ability to examine eruptions and hazards at the youngest volcanoes on Earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-91
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Geochronology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Ar/Ar
  • K-Ar
  • Kinrara
  • Radiocarbon
  • Toomba
  • Undara


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