Sedimentation of tephra by volcanic plumes: I. Theory and its comparison with a study of the Fogo A plinian deposit, Sao Miguel (Azores)
- Cite this article as:
- Bursik, M.I., Sparks, R.S.J., Gilbert, J.S. et al. Bull Volcanol (1992) 54: 329. doi:10.1007/BF00301486
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Sedimentation of ejecta from volcanic plumes has been studied as a function of distance from the source in the Fogo A plinian deposit, Sao Miguel, Azores. The Fogo A trachytic pumice deposit is reversely graded and can be divided into two parts on the basis of pumice colour, abundance of syenite accessory lithic clasts and distribution. The lower syenite-poor part was dispersed to the south and was clearly influenced by wind. The upper syenite-rich part is coarsegrained and has a nearly symmetrical distribution around the vent. Elongation of isopachs to the east indicate a weak wind influence. The grain-size variations of lithic and crystal components in the upper coarse part were studied. Total accumulation and accumulation per unit area (expressed in kg/m2) show good fits to a gaussian function at distances greater than ∼7 km for grain diameters less than 2 cm. These results agree with a theoretical model for a radially spreading turbulent current moving over a quiescent fluid. The gaussian coefficient is shown to be a function of grain size and the flow rate of material into the umbrella region of the eruption column. The coefficient is therefore also a function of column height. The column height deduced from these data is 21 km, which is in broad agrrement with the column height of 27 km deduced from maximum clast dispersal using the method of Carey and Sparks (1986). The accumulation of clasts larger than 2 cm agrees with a theory for the fallout of clasts from the margins of the ascending eruption column, which treats the plume as a succession of large eddies that decrease their mass of particles as an exponential function of time. Calculations are also presented for the influence of the radial inflow of surrounding air into the column on the deposition of clasts. These calculations constrain the wind speed during the later part of the Fogo A eruption to be at most a few metres per second. The study has allowed four different dynamic categories of clast behaviour to be recognised in eruption columns.