Thursday, 24 November 2011

What is the Mount Warning erosion caldera?

It is very popular to refer to the Mount Warning area as the Mount Warning erosion caldera or Tweed Shield erosion caldera. Many sources indicate that it is the biggest erosion caldera in the world. For example Bigvolcano or good ol' wikipedia use the term. There are some very informative books by top class geologists such as Rocks and Landscapes of South East Queensland by Warwick Willmott also use the term. It is certainly an imposing volcanic influences landscape, but what is an erosion caldera anyway.

Ok. Let us start somewhere definite. A geological dictionary definition. Lets just look at caldera: A large circular crater left after the collapse or explosion of a volcanic cone. Now, lets look at erosion: The wearing away of rocks or other materials by the action of water or ice or wind.

So, Adding the term erosion to the front of the word caldera implies this: a landscape formed through the actions of wind or water or ice but also simultaneously formed through the collapse or explosion of a volcanic cone. Hopefully, you agree that this is possibly misleading. We have two different formation concepts equally applicable at the same time. What gives? How can the same feature form at the same site twice? once by erosion and once from the collapse of a magma chamber.

Mount Warning in the centre of the volcano remnant
Mount Warning was once the centre of a large volcanic cone called the Tweed Volcano. The centre of the Tweed Volcanic cone was a crater which may have collapsed or exploded as some stage to create a larger caldera. But this process is not definitely known because if this caldera actually existed it has since been eroded away to reveal the valley systems that we see today.

I think is is becoming obvious that there has been some sort of mistake in the development of the name erosion caldera. So, why use this term? A short answer is that most geologists tend not use this term, unless informally to illustrate the grand nature of some valleys that are formed in the remnants of large volcanos. That is not to say that some geologists don't mistakenly use the term anyway, I mean even geologists are human!

My suggestion, is not to use the term erosion caldera at all since it often results in confusion on the mechanism for the formation of thing it is actually used to describe.


  1. Either way, it is certainly very beautiful and has left the area with wonderfully rich soil. I grew up between where you are standing and Mt Warning. We had spectacular views of Mt Warning and surrounds.

  2. I couldn't agree more, a wonderful area. Beautiful and spectacular. I'd love to have a permanent view of the mountain! Thanks for commenting.