Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 3, pp 657–675 | Cite as

Characteristics of submarine pumice-rich density current deposits sourced from turbulent mixing of subaerial pyroclastic flows at the shoreline: field and experimental assessment

  • S. R. AllenEmail author
  • A. Freundt
  • K. Kurokawa
Research Article


This study investigates the types of subaqueous deposits that occur when hot pyroclastic flows turbulently mix with water at the shoreline through field studies of the Znp marine tephra in Japan and flume experiments where hot tephra sample interacted with water. The Znp is a very thick, pumice-rich density current deposit that was sourced from subaerial pyroclastic flows entering the Japan Sea in the Pliocene. Notable characteristics are well-developed grain size and density grading (lithic-rich base, pumice-rich middle, and ash-rich top), preponderance of sedimentary lithic clasts picked up from the seafloor during transport, fine ash depletion in coarse facies, and presence of curviplanar pumice clasts. Flume experiments provide a framework for interpreting the origin and proximity to source of the Znp tephra. On contact of hot tephra sample with water, steam explosions produced a gas-supported pyroclastic density current that advanced over the water while a water-supported density current was produced on the tank floor from the base of a turbulent mixing zone. Experimental deposits comprise proximal lithic breccia, medial pumice breccia, and distal fine ash. Experiments undertaken with cold, water-saturated slurries of tephra sample and water did not produce proximal lithic breccias but a medial basal lithic breccia beneath an upper pumice breccia. Results suggest the characteristics and variations in Znp facies were strongly controlled by turbulent mixing and quenching, proximity to the shoreline, and depositional setting within the basin. Presence of abundant curviplanar pumice clasts in submarine breccias reflects brittle fracture and dismembering that can occur during fragmentation at the vent or during quenching. Subsequent transport in water-supported pumiceous density currents preserves the fragmental textures. Careful study is needed to distinguish the products of subaerial versus subaqueous eruptions.


Experiment Znp tephra Pyroclastic density current Submarine Pumice 



We acknowledge the help of Martin Launer in constructing the experiments and Makiko Tan, Haruna Yahagi, and Norie Fujibayashi in the field. J McPhie, R Fiske, M Manga, and an anonymous reviewer made useful comments on a previous version of this manuscript. This research was undertaken while SA was an Australian Research Council Research Fellow. The research was funded by the Australian Academy of Science Scientific Visits to Europe Award for Young Researchers (SA), the Australian Academy of Science bilaterial exchange program with the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (SA) and grants Fr947/7-1 and 7–2 from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (AF).

Supplementary material


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445_2011_553_MOESM4_ESM.jpg (2.3 mb)
ESM 4 Flume experiment setup (a) on the inset floor and (b) on the ramp. The sample (dark grey) is housed in box to the left. Plastic plates line the inset floor. V = video, P = pressure sensor, T = thermocouple, measurements in cm (modified from Allen and Freundt 2006).
445_2011_553_MOESM5_ESM.jpg (2.3 mb)
ESM 5 Viscosity of tephra/water slurries at various water contents determined by Stokes Law. Experimental slurries are shown and include S28a which was too viscous to transform into a turbulent gravity flow.
445_2011_553_MOESM6_ESM.doc (34 kb)
ESM 6 DOC (DOC 33.5 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits and School of Earth SciencesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.IFM-GEOMAR Leibniz-Institute for Marine SciencesKielGermany
  3. 3.Department of Earth Science, Faculty of Education and Human SciencesNiigata UniversityNiigataJapan
  4. 4.NiigataJapan

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