, Volume 56, Issue 6-7, pp 538-551

Dilute gravity current and rain-flushed ash deposits in the 1.8 ka Hatepe Plinian deposit, Taupo, New Zealand

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Abstract

Two groups of poorly sorted ash-rich beds, previously interpreted as rain-flushed ashes, occur in the ca. AD 180 Hatepe Plinian pumice fall deposit at Taupo volcano, New Zealand. Two ash beds with similar dispersal patterns and an aggregate thickness of up to 13 cm make up the lowermost group (A). Group A beds extend 45 km north-east of the vent and cover 290 km2. In the southern part of the group A distribution area, a coarse ash to lapilli-size Plinian pumice bed (deposit B) separates the two group A beds. The scarcity of lapilli (material seen elsewhere from the still-depositing pumice fall) in group A beds indicates that they were rapidly transported and deposited. However, this rapid transportation and deposition did not produce cross-bedding, nor did it erode the underlying deposits. It is proposed that thick (>600 m) but dilute gravity currents generated from the collapsing outer margin of the otherwise buoyant Hatepe Plinian eruption column deposited the group A beds. The upper ash beds (group C) consist of one to seven layers, attain an aggregate thickness of ≤35 cm, and vary considerably in thickness and number of beds with respect to distance from vent. Group C beds contain variable amounts of ash mixed with angular Plinian pumices and are genuine rain-flushed ashes. Several recent eruptions at other volcanoes (Ukinrek Maars, Vulcan, Rabaul, La Soufrère de Guadeloupe and Soufrière, St Vincent) have produced gravity currents similar in style, but much smaller than those envisaged for group A deposits. The overloaded margins of otherwise buoyant eruption plumes generated these gravity currents. Laboratory studies have produced experimental gravity current analogues. Hazards from dilute gravity currents are considerable but often overlooked, thus the recognition of gravity current deposits will contribute to more thorough volcanic hazard assessment of prehistoric eruption sequences.