Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 441–456

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

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 

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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