The Canary Islands are 7 volcanic islands off the coast of Africa. They are but the peaks of several massive shield volcanoes that have grown from the bottom of the ocean over the past 30 million years. The islands are older in the east, and younger in the west. Six out of seven are still active. El Hierro is the most westerly and youngest, it is also the least densely populated (so quite pristine). The next youngest is La Palma, which erupts the most frequently and is said to be the most beautiful. La Gomera, next to the east, is the only one that seems extinct, at least for now. Tenerife, the largest of the seven, has the tallest Spanish mountain; the magnificent and highly active El Teide stratovolcano. Fuerteventura, the oldest (an astounding 30 Ma), is still slightly active, it’s relatively flat and desertic, and also features rare carbonatite lavas which date back to its earliest activity. Lanzarote, the most easterly and second-oldest, erupts infrequently but enormously, after some 20,000 years of dormancy Lanzarote woke up in 1730 flooding a fifth of the island in lava.
Each volcano has a unique history, but there is one that stands out for me, the one I didn’t mention: Gran Canaria. An island with multiple cycles of activity, ranging from basalt to nephelinite, from rhyolite to phonolite. A shield, a caldera, and a stratovolcano. This is the volcano that did everything. How did it accomplish this? And what remains on the island of this complicated history?
Of the seven islands Gran Canaria is the third-largest and second-most populated. It is located in between the older Fuerteventura to the east, and the younger Tenerife to the west. At present it`s 1950 meters tall. Its topography creates a strong climate duality across the island. The mountainous northern heights of the island receive up to over 800 mm of water per year. There used to be a vast laurel forest known as the Doramas Jungle, but this forest has almost entirely disappeared over the past centuries. In contrast to the north, the southern coast of the island gets less than 100 mm/year of water and hosts a desertic landscape. This area has become quite touristic due to its sunny weather and sandy beaches.
The shield stage of Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria is possibly the only volcano in the Canary Islands with three stages of volcanism that could be considered akin to the shield, post-shield, and rejuvenated stages of Hawaiian volcanoes. Although they are also quite different. The shield stage however is very clear. This stage is the one where most of the volcano’s volume is erupted, usually within a short interval of time, and where the alkalinity of the lavas is the lowest. Canary Island volcanoes can have very protracted main-building stages. For example, Fuerteventura started to form around 33-30 Ma (million years ago), but it was still producing very voluminous activity by 20-14 Ma, which resurfaced the entire island. The southern part of Fuerteventura, the Jandia peninsula, is entirely made of several hundred meters of lavas erupted at 15-14 Ma. Tenerife could be considered to still be in its main-building stage given the enormous volume that has erupted in the past 3.5 Ma, resurfacing almost the whole island with hundreds of meters of lava, while collapsing repeatedly into the sea and refilling the scarps. Overall Tenerife has been producing voluminous effusive activity since more than 13 Ma ago, there was only a break in activity during ~9.5-6 Ma, so you could say it’s its second shield, and since that cannot happen, then the Hawaiian model does not really work here.
In terms of alkalinity, Canary Island volcanoes are very homogeneous, La Palma erupts basanite, El Hierro erupts basanite, Tenerife erupts basanite, Lanzarote normally erupts basanite, and practically every volcano in the Canary Islands erupts basanite in its main-building stages. So this magma and its evolved products are the main rocks that make up the Canary Islands. Basanite is a magma that comes from the mantle, like basalt, but is lower in silica and aluminum, and higher in a plethora of other elements including magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium, and others. Such magmas are said to be alkaline because they are richer in the alkali metals, sodium and potassium. However, there are two exceptions to the omnipresence of basanite and its evolved products in the main-building stage of Canary Islands volcanoes, La Gomera and Gran Canaria. La Gomera’s main building stage erupted picrobasalts, while Gran Canaria erupted alkali basalts. These magmas are a little more alkaline than typical subalkaline basalts, but less alkaline than the Canarian basanites.
The presence of less alkaline lavas during its main construction stage is characteristic of the shield stage of Hawaiian volcanoes and some other Polynesian volcanic islands. This can be a sign of intense volcanism, given that alkalinity is roughly inversely proportional to productivity within a given ocean island volcanic province. Added to this Gran Canaria basalts seem to have erupted very rapidly, the oldest shield lavas are dated at 14.6 Ma, while the youngest ones date to 14 Ma. The subaerial basalts probably erupted within several hundred thousand years. This contrasts with other islands where the ages of main-building stage lavas range by millions of years.
It is difficult to know many details from the shield stage due to poor exposure, burial under younger lavas, and erosion. Nowadays the alkali basalts outcrop mostly along a narrow band that runs parallel to the west and northwest coasts of the island, where in places the basalt crops out in precipices up to 600 m tall overlooking the sea. Thin layers of hard rock make up the core of the flows and alternate with weak oxidized layers that are the scoriaceous lava crusts. There is little that can be learned from these piles of lavas other than their age and chemistry. So then how can we know more? To do this we can look at the bigger picture, the size and shape of the island and seamount.
The island is, and was, roughly circular, yet another similarity it shares with La Gomera. This means eruptions mostly came from radial fissures. Other volcanoes prefer to erupt through rifts, which is the case of La Palma, El Hierro, and Tenerife, where the rift gives the volcano an elongated or triangular shape. The former shoreline of Gran Canaria can be found 800-1000 underwater. Yes, it sunk 1 km into the sea! This is not uncommon in ocean islands, in Hawaii, for example, a moat of subsidence develops in the seafloor around the volcano in their main-building stage, as they go dormant they continue to subside and the former coast ends up underwater. In the most extreme cases, like Haleakala’s or Puhahonu’s, the coast ends up 2 km below the sea surface where it consists of a break in slope between a shallow, wave-smoothed shelf and a steep talus of pillow lavas and hyaloclastites. Of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria’s 1 km subsidence is by far the greatest. This subsidence has reduced the size and height of the original island. Towards the end of the shield stage, there would have been a circular island 60 km in diameter, about 50 % larger than present-day Tenerife, and reaching close to 3000 meters above sea level at its summit. Two major landslide aprons bulge out from the southwest and east submarine flanks of the mountain. They are remarkably thick. Originally their top may have been near sea level and they would have sloped gently outwards. Given the major thickness, they are probably polygenetic, with the flanks collapsing into the sea and refilling with lava more than once. At present, above the seafloor, the volcano’s volume is about 26,000 km3, but there must be an additional volume of 15,000 km3 or more of subsided volcanic edifice, landslides, and volcaniclastic material that is filling a subsidence bowl under Gran Canaria. Because of the differences it has with its neighbors, I picture the volcano as being more akin to powerful shield volcanoes that erupt basalts like Piton de la Fournaise or former volcanoes of the Polynesia, than typical Canarian shields.
The shield set the stage for what was to come. It was a strong start to a fascinating story of changing magmas and eruption styles. Perhaps it was the intensity of its early life that paved the road to an intense remainder.
The post-shield stage
At 13.95 Ma a massive explosive eruption covered most or all of the island in pyroclastic flows making a mixed ignimbrite of rhyolite, trachyte, and basalt magmas some 30 meters thick on average. This would be the start of the most dramatic volcanic stage of Gran Canaria. In the blink of an eye, geologically speaking, the composition of the erupted material shifted from full basaltic lavas to a series of silicic ignimbrites. The first ignimbrite eruption is known as the P1 ignimbrite, it starts with peralkaline rhyolite magma which gradually shifts to trachyte and then to basalt, upwards through the sequence. It was a massive explosive eruption, with estimates ranging from 45 km3 bulk volume to 80 km3 DRE, a caldera-forming eruption. It was the first rhyolite to erupt from Gran Canaria, and also one of the last basalts. I think this eruption perfectly represents the transition from what may have been a basaltic caldera system to a rhyolitic one. A shallow magma chamber likely collapsed during P1, this magma chamber may have already existed during the shield stage as a basaltic system and started to accumulate silicic magma due to some change that we can only speculate about. During the eruption, the magma chamber may have contained a mixture of both basaltic and silicic magmas, presumably vertically zoned across the magma body. The thickness of basalt is greater than that of the silicic types in most outcrops, making this one of the largest explosive basaltic eruptions known. This ignimbrite rests conformably on the shield stage lavas.
But P1 was only the first in a series of spectacular eruptions. Caldera-forming ignimbrites started erupting recurrently at intervals of 30,000-40,000 years on average. By 13.36 Ma, some 15-20 ignimbrites had erupted, known as the Mogán formation, intercalated with minor rhyolitic lava flows. The deposits were produced by pyroclastic flows at very high temperatures, which welded the ejecta together, intercalated lava flows are rare, and pyroclastic fall deposits (where pumice rains from a volcanic plume) seem very rare to non-existent. The ignimbrites are widespread, with numerous units being correlatable across much of the island and also in found turbidity currents in the abyssal plains around Gran Canaria. During these eruptions massive fountains of rhyolite and trachyte pyroclasts exploded from caldera fissures near the center of the island, feeding pyroclastic flows that reached 30 km away to the coast while destroying vegetation and animals on their path, they entered the ocean and continued as submarine turbidity currents, spreading across the seafloor as currents of muddy water. Immediately after the eruption, the island would have glowed as if it were on fire, and much of it would be covered in a new veneer of rock-hard ejecta.
The Mogán ignimbrites form exposures of a few hundred meters thick of pyroclastic material within the walls of deep valleys in the southwest corner of the island. Good exposures are found near Puerto de Mogán hence its name. Another nice exposure is found by the west coast of the island, in a series of sharp pyramidal peaks and ridges that overlook the ocean, the highest known as Hogarzales (1060 masl), here there’s a 460-meter thick pile mapped as Mogán Formation in geologic maps. By my count, there are 13 ignimbrites coherent across this exposure, as well as 5 possible additional ignimbrites or lava flows that are discontinuous. The layers are strongly welded and resistant to erosion, the contacts between them are softer and comprise tiny shelves of white tuff along which vegetation grows, making narrow green bands in between the bare rock of the welded ejecta. The pyroclastics lie upon a pile of basaltic lavas, but in a complex manner with visible discontinuities in places. The ignimbrite section also repeats at a lower elevation by the sea. It seems as if the welded pyroclastics cover two plateaus at different heights separated by a steep wall and in turn surrounded by higher areas.
But if there are caldera-forming ignimbrites there must be a caldera right? There is, and a big one at that, but spoiler alert, it may not be what it seems. For a distance of 27 km on the western side of the island runs a semicircular cliff of thick, strongly welded ignimbrites which face towards the sea, and unconformably overlie basalts. This is a curious example of an inverted relief. The ignimbrites are thought to have filled a vast caldera, known as the Tejeda caldera. They are so strongly welded that they look like lava flows. Individual ignimbrite sheets can reach over 100 meters thick, they are dark reddish colored from high-temperature oxidation of iron, are very resistant to erosion, and can have columnar jointing from cooling contraction. The basalts around the caldera were eroded over time, but the caldera-fill held, making what is now a semicircular mesa cut open in the middle by the Valley of Tejeda, a smaller elliptical area inside this elevated mesa where trachyte intrusions are found and which has been eroded down. The Tejeda caldera would have been 17 km wide from one side of the cliff to the other, and it’s thought to be a collapse caldera. But here I differ.
A 2022 article by Montesinos and several additional authors which I link in the references at the end, created a Bouguer gravity map of Gran Canaria. In these maps, you can see differences in the density of rock below the surface, and are very useful. There is something very striking about the map in their article which immediately brought to my mind a shape I’m very familiar with. The map shows a horseshoe-shaped area of high-density material surrounding the center of Gran Canaria on the west, and a U-shaped area of low-density material open to the east. This reminded me of landslide shields, a term I personally use to think of volcanoes where the summit area has a semicircular caldera that is open to one side, like for example Tenerife, or Piton de la Fournaise. There are submarine landslide aprons located next to these U-shaped calderas, which correspond to lava fill that slides away into the sea. I think the Tejeda Caldera is in fact a landslide caldera, open to the east, where a vast submarine apron of volcaniclastic material fills up the area between Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura. It would be some 17 km wide, 40 km long, and possibly over 1 km deep, being buried under younger volcanics of the rejuvenated stage on the eastern half of the island. Tejeda would be filled with low-density silicic rocks from the caldera stage and that is why it shows in the Bouguer gravity map.
But a collapse caldera is needed, right? No problem, there is a better candidate for a collapse caldera. The Valley of Tejeda forms a smaller elliptical area inside the Tejeda Caldera, 12 km long and 5-9 km wide, where many trachytic intrusions are found, including hundreds of cone sheet intrusions, concentric sheets of magma that intrude from a magma chamber in a manner akin to the petals of a flower. Cone sheets concentrate within the smaller elliptical area. Similar cone sheet intrusions are typical of other intraplate calderas where they follow or surround the caldera rim. The seaward-facing cliff of Gran Canaria, the rim of a larger caldera, doesn’t have cone sheet intrusions, and this to me suggests that this is not the collapse caldera, further supporting a landslide origin. Not to mention that a caldera 20 km across like most articles suggest would likely produce large-sized VEI 7 eruptions, and not the VEI 6 events that seem typical of Gran Canaria. If there had been eruption-driven collapses these would have disrupted the intracaldera ignimbrite layers, which, although inclined in places, remain coherent across the high mesa-like area (no faulted layers). So the collapse caldera is smaller and nested inside the larger U-shaped landslide caldera.
This inverted relief, not of a collapse caldera but of landslide headwall, is one of the most special landforms of Gran Canaria. Hydrothermally altered tuffs of reddish and greenish colors are often seen along the base of the headwall, found at the contact with the shield-stage lavas, and sometimes interbedded between the ignimbrites. There is a particular location named Los Azulejos, a small valley carved into the headwall, found along the road that connects Mogán to La Aldea de Sán Nicolás, where white-colored unconsolidated volcanic tuff is in places altered to green and red-colored layers. The tuffs lie on top of the basalts from the shield stage and are interbedded with oxidized dark red welded ignimbrites, waterfalls jump over the welded ignimbrites and cut into the softer tuff. The tuffs and the welded ignimbrites dip inwards towards the caldera and were likely emplaced upslope against the landslide headwall. For a distance of 4 kilometers to the northwest of Los Azulejos the greenish tuff remains visible along the contact with the basalt. It is overlain by a ~350-meter near-vertical drop comprising 10 strongly welded ignimbrites. Towards the center of the cliff lies Los Hornos Mountain towering another 250 meters over the cliff with additional ignimbrites or lava flows (possibly belonging to the later Fataga Formation) that feature columnar jointing and are enveloped in a pine forest, absent at lower elevations.
The colored tuffs of Los Azulejos are dated with precision to 13.29 Ma, which is younger than the uppermost Mogán ignimbrite (the 13.36 Ma Ignimbrite F). One of the welded oxidized ignimbrites under Los Hornos Mountain is dated at 13.04 Ma. This sequence is called the Montaña Horno Formation and because of the few ages available not much is known in detail about it. It is chemically transitional between the preceding Mogán Formation and the next stage, the Fataga Formatión.
The Fataga Formation is the final stage of caldera volcanism at Gran Canaria. Unlike the earlier Mogán and Montaña Horno formations which were almost exclusively ignimbrite eruptions, the Fataga Formation erupted important volumes of silicic lava flows along with ignimbrites, fallout tephra deposits, and debris avalanches. Magma composition increased in alkalinity from rhyolites and trachytes in the preceding formations to trachytes and phonolites in the Fataga. This formation is best exposed over the southern side of the island, around Fataga. Two to four ignimbrites locally overlying the Montaña Horno formation erupted 12.43-12.33 Ma followed by phonolite lava flows to a total of up to 200 meters in thickness. 6 or more relatively thin ignimbrites erupted in the interval 11.9-11.36 Ma. A final stage of mostly lava flows and some explosive eruptions produced a thickness of up to 500 meters near Fataga, which also crops out in many places over the north of the island as silicic lava flows, lasting from 10.97 to 9.85 Ma. Some three final ignimbrites erupted between 10.40 and 10.19 Ma, which were the last caldera-forming eruptions of Gran Canaria.
By the end of the Fataga Formation, it is thought that more than 1400 km3 of silicic pyroclastic and lavas, including some 30-40 caldera-forming ignimbrites, had erupted. This could be considered as the postshield stage of the volcano, given that Pacific Ocean island volcanoes often have a postshield stage where they erupt some silicic magmas and increase in alkalinity. However, I don’t know of any cases where Pacific volcanoes did caldera-forming ignimbrites. In fact, Gran Canaria’s activity has the largest volume of silicic volcanics known on any oceanic island. The alkalinity of Gran Canaria increased during the Fataga Formation but still remained slightly milder than is typical in the Canarian magma. Nonetheless, the eruption rates were much lower than during the shield stage.
The post-erosional stage
The volcanism of Tenerife and Gran Canaria faded around the same time, about 9-8 Ma. During this time Gran Canaria underwent deep erosion and there was little to no volcanism. Both volcanoes returned to activity around the same time too. Around 6 Ma Tenerife reactivated with the construction of the satellite Teno volcano. Gran Canaria follows at 5.5 Ma. Eruptions intensified around 5.1 Ma. Fluid fissure-fed basanite lavas resurfaced areas of the central and western island over the next 1 million years (El Tablero Formation).
During 4-3 Ma there was a curious interval in the history of the Canary Islands. La Gomera and Tenerife, which had shared protagonism in the 6-4 Ma period, went inactive. La Gomera’s activity died out at about 4.2 Ma. Tenerife which was focused on building its second satellite shield, Anaga, went dormant around 4 Ma. The central shield of Tenerife that erupts nowadays did not activate until around 3.5 Ma, and La Palma would not start to form until around 3.1 Ma. For a brief interval, Gran Canaria may have been the focus of activity in the archipelago. Roughly coincident with this time Gran Canaria entered a second explosive climax in its history.
From 4.15 Ma to 3.5 Ma it was the height of the Roque Nublo cycle. Powerful explosive eruptions produced lithic-rich pyroclastic density currents, which were channelized through valleys, reaching the coast of the island up to 30 km away. Debris avalanches filled valleys to the south. Mudflows built up in the area of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, by the northeast coast. At the same time, effusive eruptions from issued radial fissures, the lava flows are intercalated with pyroclastic flows, and pumice fallouts from plinian eruptions. Explosive eruptions were extremely energetic but also very different from the 14-10 Ma ignimbrites. Roque Nublo pyroclastic density currents are non-welded which shows lower temperatures when compared to the Miocene ignimbrites, they also also remarkably high in lithics, having 35-55 %. Lithics are fragments of rock from the walls of the conduit that are ejected along with the magma. The eruptions must have been very gas-rich to incorporate such a large volume of lithics into the eruptions, so some authors think they were hydromagmatic. I do think there is another option though.
The magma that erupted during this cycle was unusually alkaline, the more evolved magmas of the Roque Nublo cycle plot between tephriphonolites and foidites in the TAS diagram, with lower silica and higher alkalis than usual trachyphonolitic evolved magmas of the Canary Islands. With increasing alkalinity, the gas content tends to go up. Added to this there is no clear evidence of a shallow magma chamber that collapsed during the eruptions, and the magmas are not fully evolved having around 2 wt% magnesium oxide, compared to contents of 0.5-0 wt % MgO in the postshield ignimbrites. I think it is possible that mildly evolved tephriphonolite-foidite magmas rose straight up from the mantle, 15 km deep, carrying huge amounts of CO2 and H2O volatiles that decompressed into spectacular plinian explosions and pyroclastic density currents. The expanding gas gouged out rocks from the walls of the conduit which were ejected along with the pyroclasts.
The pyroclastic density currents of Roque Nublo consist of breccias made of angular clasts in a matrix of ash. In the highest parts of the island, these breccias are up to 500 meters thick and they have eroded into fanciful crags, ranging from sheer drops to rock needles, ridges, and flat-topped rock formations. Some vertical walls of up to 250 meters tall are made of massive, uninterrupted breccia. One of the rock formations, Roque Nublo, gives name to the cycle and is a very touristic location, a curious rock pinnacle perched above the Valley of Tejeda. The origin of these pyroclastic density current breccias may have been a 1.5 km wide circular structure near the center of the island in an area known as Andén del Toro, from which post-erosional aged dikes seem to radiate, perhaps the remnants of a central conduit, the center of a polygenetic pyroclastic cone or shield, a sort of stratovolcano.
This chapter of Gran Canaria’s history gave rise to yet another series of crags but of a different origin, plugs of tephriphonolite-foidite. Phonolitic plugs are some of the most peculiar volcanic landforms on Earth, like Devil’s Tower, Pico Cao Grande, or the rock needles of Ua Pou. Gran Canaria’s are not as prominent, but still noteworthy. To me, the most striking of the necks is 3.7 Ma Risco Blanco, a 400-meter-tall intrusion cutting through the Roque Nublo breccias. It’s likely that these subvolcanic intrusions were associated with monogenetic silicic volcanism, conduits to lava flows, lava domes, or maybe tuff cones. More of these intrusions, the Tenteniguada volcanic necks, formed around 3.11-2.7 Ma. Tenteniguada seems to have been the last spurt of evolved volcanism on the island
Mafic volcanism was continuous during and after the silicic volcanism. Around 3 Ma, a “voluminous” phase of nephelinite volcanism started. Nephelinite lavas erupted along a NW-SE rift cutting through the island, with the dikes showing a slight radial pattern from Anden del Toro. These lavas erupted from cinder cones and covered much of the northeastern side of the island in lava, thickest along the rift where in places there are more than 400 meters of lava flows. And I say voluminous because it’s not every day that you find large amounts of nephelinite. The lavas erupted from Gran Canaria during this stage averaged 38.5 wt% SiO2, which is very low. Basalt has around 50 wt% SiO2 in comparison. They are nephelinite lavas, which are primitive but more alkaline than basanites, and overall very rare, usually found in small volumes only. This volcanism peaked around 2 Ma ago and started to decline. The activity became very low after 1.5 Ma but continued with sporadic eruptions of both basanites and nephelinites.
During the past 1 million years some eruptions have happened which are mostly very small in volume and inconspicuous. The exception is a group of vents in the northeast part of the island surrounding Las Palmas de Gran Canaria that have produced slightly larger eruptions from SW-NE running fissures. They carry the direction of recent Fuerteventura and Lanzarote fissure eruptions. Here, Montaña de Arucas, in the town of the same name, erupted a small monogenetic shield volcano 420,000 years ago. Another similar fissure happened 150,000 years ago which may have been responsible for two cones some distance apart from each other, Montaña de Cardones near Arucas, and Montaña del Faro in La Isleta. The last known pre-Holocene eruption of Gran Canaria happened 50,000 years ago and formed a 2 km-long row of craters in La Isleta, a small peninsula in the northern part of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, this eruption is youthful-looking and gained some ground to the sea.
During the Holocene, there may have been a surge in volcanic activity since some 24 volcanic vents have erupted during this time. All of these vents probably do not represent separate eruptions. Eruptions of shield volcanoes tend to open multiple vents and fissures, sometimes offset from each other, and some distance apart. The Holocene eruptions that are radiocarbon-dated form 5 clusters of nearly identical age, so all of the vents could have formed in as little as 5 eruptions. This is a lot considering that the last previous known eruption happened 50,000 years ago. Some think we might be entering a new cycle of volcanic activity in Gran Canaria, although most likely it’s just a small uptick. All of these eruptions came from NW-SE running fissures that are aligned with the post-erosional rift structure of the island, and are perpendicular to the fissures of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.
The first eruption happened 12600 cal yr BP, just before the start of the Holocene, and produced only a very small flow. Another episode happened 6600 cal yr BP (years before the present) making five vents on a 6 km long line with identical radiocarbon ages, including the cinder cones of Montañón Negro and Caldera de los Pinos. The following three events were closely spaced happening at 3000, 2450, and 2000 cal years BP, and erupted mostly from the eastern sector of the island, each making a number of different vents. The last activity, 2000 years ago, is interesting. While the other eruptions are basanitic, this event produced nephelinite lava. Nephelinite is found in a small lava flow that issued downrift of two explosive maar craters known as Caldera de los Marteles and La Calderilla, all probably formed at the same time. This is the only known nephelinite erupted during the Holocene in the Canary Islands. Another maar crater formed around this time in a different part of the island, perhaps in the same eruption or a different closely spaced event, the Caldera de Bandama maar and the immediately adjacent Pico de Bandama cinder cone. Caldera de Bandama is a circular crater 900 meters wide and 200 meters deep located south of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The walls expose pyroclastic density currents of both the Fataga formation and Roque Nublo cycle that were excavated by the explosions. Tephra, which erupted from the Bandama maar, covers 25 km2. I have wondered if this eruption was driven by gas-rich nephelinite magma too. However, I haven’t found any information about its composition. The Holocene eruptions amount to 0.4 km3.
A shield, a caldera, a stratovolcano, and a shield again, the history of Gran Canaria is a fascinating one and is still being written. The island is a legacy of changing eruption styles and lava compositions which gave rise to one of the most complex volcanic edifices on the planet. It perhaps is the maximum expression of a different class of hotspot volcanism that involves multiple volcanic cycles and phases of silicic volcanism. Its landscapes may not be as grandiose as those of La Palma and Tenerife but is a geological wonder and a scientific curiosity.
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Hoernle, K., & Schmincke, H. (1993). The Petrology of the Tholeiites through Melilite Nephelinites on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands: Crystal Fractionation, Accumulation, and Depths of Melting. Journal of Petrology, 34(3), 573–597. https://doi.org/10.1093/petrology/34.3.573
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Torrado, F. J. P., Martı, J., Mangas, J., & Day, S. (1997). Ignimbrites of the Roque Nublo group, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. Bulletin of Volcanology, 58(8), 647–654. https://doi.org/10.1007/s004450050168
van den Bogaard, P., Schmincke, H.U., 1998. Chronostratigraphy of Gran Canaria. In: Weaver, P.P.E., Schmincke, H.U., Firth, J.V., Duffield, W. (Eds.), Proceedings of the O.D.P. Scientific Results, vol. 157, pp. 127 – 140.