Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 441–456 | Cite as

Total grain-size distribution and volume of tephra-fall deposits

  • C. BonadonnaEmail author
  • B. F. Houghton
Research Article


On 17 June 1996, Ruapehu volcano, New Zealand, produced a sustained andesitic sub-Plinian eruption, which generated a narrow tephra-fall deposit extending more than 200 km from the volcano. The extremely detailed data set from this eruption allowed methods for the determination of total grain-size distribution and volume of tephra-fall deposits to be critically investigated. Calculated total grain-size distributions of tephra-fall deposits depend strongly on the method used and on the availability of data across the entire dispersal area. The Voronoi Tessellation method was tested for the Ruapehu deposit and gave the best results when applied to a data set extending out to isomass values of <1 g m−2. The total grain-size distribution of a deposit is also strongly influenced by the very proximal samples, and this can be shown by artificially constructing subsets from the Ruapehu database. Unless the available data set is large, all existing techniques for calculations of total grain-size distribution give only apparent distributions. The tephra-fall deposit from Ruapehu does not show a simple exponential thinning, but can be approximated well by at least three straight-line segments or by a power-law fit on semi-log plots of thickness vs. (area)1/2. Integrations of both fits give similar volumes of about 4×106 m3. Integration of at least three exponential segments and of a power-law fit with at least ten isopach contours available can be considered as a good estimate of the actual volume of tephra fall. Integrations of smaller data sets are more problematic.


Tephra-fall deposits Voronoi Ruapehu Exponential thinning Power-law thinning 



The authors are grateful to Steve Carey, Dave Pyle and Steve Sparks for constructive review of the manuscript and to Jon Blower for helpful discussion on the application of the Voronoi tessellation method. The Ruapehu data set was collected with the assistance of a large number of New Zealand colleagues including Thor Thordarson, Mike Rosenberg, Colin Wilson, David Johnston, Rod Burtt, Bruce Christiansen, Will Esler, Barbara Hobden, Katy Hodgson, Zinzuni Jurado-Chichay, Barry Lowe, Richard Smith, Jeff Willis and Vince Udy. This work was supported by an EC Marie Curie PhD Fellowship at Bristol University (UK), by NSF-EAR-0310096, NSF-EAR-012579 and by several grants by the New Zealand Foundation for Research and Sciences Technology.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Department of Geology and GeophysicsUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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