Research Article

Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 511-531

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Post-depositional fracturing and subsidence of pumice flow deposits: Lascar Volcano, Chile

  • Patrick L. WhelleyAffiliated withDepartment of Geology, University at Buffalo, State University of New York Email author 
  • , J. JayAffiliated withDepartment of Earth as Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University
  • , E. S. CalderAffiliated withDepartment of Geology, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
  • , M. E. PritchardAffiliated withDepartment of Earth as Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University
  • , N. J. CassidyAffiliated withSchool of Physical and Geographical Sciences, Keele University
  • , S. AlcarazAffiliated withDepartment of Earth Sciences, The Open University
  • , A. PavezAffiliated withDepartamento de Geofísica, Universidad de Chile


Unconsolidated pyroclastic flow deposits of the 1993 eruption of Lascar Volcano, Chile, have, with time, become increasingly dissected by a network of deeply penetrating fractures. The fracture network comprises orthogonal sets of decimeter-wide linear voids that form a pseudo-polygonal grid visible on the deposit surface. In this work, we combine shallow surface geophysical imaging tools with remote sensing observations and direct field measurements of the deposit to investigate these fractures and their underlying causal mechanisms. Based on ground penetrating radar images, the fractures are observed to have propagated to depths of up to 10 m. In addition, orbiting radar interferometry shows that deposit subsidence of up to 1 cm/year−1 occurred between 1993 and 1996 with continued subsidence occurring at a slower rate thereafter. In situ measurements show that 1 m below the surface, the 1993 deposits remain 5°C to 15°C hotter, 18 years after emplacement, than adjacent deposits. Based on the observed subsidence as well as estimated cooling rates, the fractures are inferred to be the combined result of deaeration, thermal contraction, and sedimentary compaction in the months to years following deposition. Significant environmental factors, including regional earthquakes in 1995 and 2007, accelerated settling at punctuated moments in time. The spatially variable fracture pattern relates to surface slope and lithofacies variations as well as substrate lithology. Similar fractures have been reported in other ignimbrites but are generally exposed only in cross section and are often attributed to formation by external forces. Here we suggest that such interpretations should be invoked with caution, and deformation including post-emplacement subsidence and fracturing of loosely packed ash-rich deposits in the months to years post-emplacement is a process inherent in the settling of pyroclastic material.


Lascar Ignimbrite InSAR Ground penetrating radar Compaction Deaeration Cooling