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Pyroclastic Surges and

Phreatomagmatic Eruptions

EAS 458
Volcanology

Capalinhos, Faial, Azores, 1957

Mt. St. Helens Dome 9/29/04

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Mt. St. Helens Seismicity

Magma chamber

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Volcano Advisory (Alter Level 2)
S activity at Mount St. Helens has accelerated significantly, which
increases our level of concern that current unrest could culminate in
an eruption. We are increasing the alert level to the second of three
levels. Earthquakes are occurring at about four per minute. All are
still at shallow levels in and below the lava dome that grew in the
crater between 1980 and 1986. This suggests that the ongoing
intense earthquake activity has weakened the dome, increasing the
likelihood of explosions or perhaps the extrusion of lava from the
dome.
Overnight the seismic energy level increased slightly and remains
elevated with a rate of 3-4 events per minute and now include
events as large as magnitude 3.3. All earthquake locations are still
shallow and in or below the lava dome. In addition, initial data from
the GPS instrument on the lava dome that was repaired Monday
morning suggest that the site moved a few inches northward
Monday and Tuesday, but has since been stable.

Capalinhos Today

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Case History: Krakatau

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Indonesian Island Arcs

Krakatau before 1883

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Krakatau before 1883
Main island 9 km
across consisted of
South 3 cones
Largest was
Rakata,
Rakata, 800 m
elevation
Vague reports of
eruption in 1680-
1681
Uninhabited
Seismic activity
beginning in late
1870
1870s; large
quake in 1880.

May, 1883
Eruptions began on May 20, 1883; explosions
heard 150 miles away, small amount of ash fell
on surrounding areas
In following days, a sustained subplinian
eruption produced 11 km high column.
May 27: eruption had subsided, party on the
Governeur Generaal Loudon goes to investigate
Noise deafening; large explosions every 5 to 10
minutes
Activity concentrated on northern cone of Perbuwatan
Steam clouds rising 3000 m
Glowing lava in the crater, which was 1 km diameter,
50 m deep.

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Early Summer, 1883
Activity continues for another week, then
subsides
Increases again on June 9, 1883
Continuous ash and steam column can be seen
from neighboring islands
By the end of June, top of Perbuwatan is gone,
second column rising from center of island.
July large explosions felt on Java and Sumatra
August 11; Dutch govt surveyor visits and
reports all vegetation gone, 3 major eruption
centers and several minor ones

August, 1883
Beginning August 23, there is a gradual increase
in intensity
By afternoon of August 26, explosions every 10
minutes could be heard 150 km away.
British vessel Sir Robert Sale reports black cloud
rising no less than 25 km above volcano.
By later afternoon, explosions could be heard
over all of Java.
In Jakarta, 150 km away, they are said to be as as
loud as artillery close at hand.
Continues into evening.

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Night of August 26-27
Sir Robert Sale reports the eruption column as
having a most terrible appearance, the dense
mass of clouds being covered with a murky tinge,
with fierce flashes of lightening
lightening and having the
appearance of an immense pinetree with the
stem and branches formed by volcanic
lightening.
lightening.
Ship the Charles Bal describes the night as a
fearful one: the blinding fall of sand and stone,
the intense blackness above and around us,
broken only the incessant glare of lightning and
the continued explosive roars of Krakatau.
Krakatau.
At 4 AM things quiet down somewhat.

Cataclysm on August 27
Series of extremely loud and violent explosions recorded on
the tide gauge at Jakarta between 5:30 and 10:52 AM.
Loudest heard in Rodriquez Island in Indian Ocean 4500 km
away.
Pressure waves recorded on barometers worldwide.
Series of tsunamis strike coast of Sumatra and Java, killing
36,000. Largest record on the tide gauge in Jakarta as
arriving at 12:30 PM.
Charles Bal and Robert Sale report total darkness
Charles Bal reports mud rain; 15 cm of ash accumulates in
10 minutes.
Residents of neighboring islands burned by hot ash - some
report hot ash being blown upward through floor boards.
2000 fatalities
Eruption over by the afternoon of the 28th. Great rafts of
pumice reported in the Sunda Strait.

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Krakatau, Sept 1883

Krakatau, Sept-Oct 1883


Royal Dutch Navy and scientific party led by
Roger Verbeek visit shortly after eruption
2/3 of Krakatau gone
Everything covered in white pumice
Steam eruptions from new pumice islands of
Calmeyer and Steers (evntually
(evntually eroded away).
Hydrographic surveys find 300 m deep
depression where the island was once 300 m
above sea level
Up to 40 m of pumice deposits on sea floor
Verbeek estimates 25 km3 eruption; modern
estimates up to 30 km3.

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Anak Krakatau

Questions
Krakatau provides
provides an
example of a caldera-
forming ultraplinian
eruption, but
What caused the
explosions?
What caused the
tsunamis?
Why were people burned
40 km away?
What was the role of
seawater?

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Pyroclastic surges are dilute,
high energy pyroclastic
Pyroclastic Surges density currents that
typically produce thin,
bedded and cross-bedded
to massive deposits.
Pyroclastic surges are
commonly associated with
phreatomagmatic
explosions, but may also be
associated with other
phenomena, such as dry
volcanic explosions and
pyroclastic flows.
In reality, surges and flows
form a continuum - with
grain density and turbulent
energy main factors.

Characteristics of Pyroclastic
Surge Deposits
Partially topographically
constrained
Thin over hills, thicken in valleys
Sorting variable
Weak to good
Very coarse clasts and blocks of
pyroclastic flows generally lacking
Not as well sorted as fall deposits
Often show evidence of lateral
transport
Ripples
Basal scouring
Cross bedding
Highly fragmented (generally
small grain size)

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Generation of Surges
Base Surge
Explosive interaction of magma and water
Eruptive column collapse interacts with ground
Interaction of pyroclastic flow and water
Directed blasts
e.g., Mt. St. Helens, 1980
Ground surge
Interaction of pyroclastic flows with ground
Ash-cloud surges and Lateral surges
Associated with pyroclastic flows

Base Surges

Surge produced as pyroclastic flow


enters the sea, Montserrat, 1996

Capalinhos, 1957

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Surges associated with
Pyroclastic flows
Pyroclastic flows can
generate their own
surges
Ground surge blasts
ahead and laterally
Ash-cloud surge that
can separate in some
case to become a
lateral surge

Deadly Montserrat Lateral Surge


Pyroclastic flow
generated by dome
collapse heads down
Mosquito Ghaut on June
25, 1997
Topography channeled
lower, dense part of flow
to the right
Upper, dilute ash cloud
not deflected by
topography

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Mt. Pelee, 1902

3 days after the May 8 Eruption

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Lateral Blasts
Lateral blasts occur
when decompression
magma is directed
laterally rather than
vertically.

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