Document Type


Publication Date



Voluminous and widespread tephras were produced frequently during the last 36,000 yr of volcanic activity at Mount St. Helens. Numerous tephra sets have been defined by D. R. Mullineaux, J. H. Hyde, and M. Rubin (1975, U.S. Geological Survey Journal of Research, 3, 329–335) on the basis of field relations, Fe-Mg phenocryst assemblage, and 14C chronology and are valuable marker beds for regional stratigraphic studies. In this study modal abundances and mineral compositions were determined (via petrographic and electron microprobe techniques) for numerous samples of individual layers within tephra sets W and Y to evaluate the degree of compositional variability within and between tephra layers and criteria by which to distinguish among Mount St. Helens and other Pacific Northwest tephras. Although individual layers within a set (e.g., We, Wn) cannot be distinguished from each other on the basis of mineralogic characteristics examined, mineral compositions allow distinction among layers W and Y and other Pacific Northwest tephras (e.g., Mazama, Glacier Peak). Fe-Ti oxide compositions and T-ƒO2 estimates derived using coexisting magnetite-ilmenite are especially useful due to the compositional homogeneity of these minerals both within and between samples of a given unit over a wide geographic area. The silicates show more compositional variability than the oxides, but SiO2/Al2O3 contents in hornblende and Fe/Mg ratios in hypersthene aid in distinguishing among Pacific Northwest tephras.





Publication Information

Quaternary Research