Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 6, pp 1425–1443 | Cite as

Contrasting pyroclast density spectra from subaerial and submarine silicic eruptions in the Kermadec arc: implications for eruption processes and dredge sampling

  • Simon J. Barker
  • Melissa D. Rotella
  • Colin J. N. Wilson
  • Ian C. Wright
  • Richard J. Wysoczanski
Research Article


Pyroclastic deposits from four caldera volcanoes in the Kermadec arc have been sampled from subaerial sections (Raoul and Macauley) and by dredging from the submerged volcano flanks (Macauley, Healy, and the newly discovered Raoul SW). Suites of 16–32 mm sized clasts have been analyzed for density and shape, and larger clasts have been analyzed for major element compositions. Density spectra for subaerial dry-type eruptions on Raoul Island have narrow unimodal distributions peaking at vesicularities of 80–85%, whereas ingress of external water (wet-type eruption) or extended timescales for degassing generate broader distributions, including denser clasts. Submarine-erupted pyroclasts show two different patterns. Healy and Raoul SW dredge samples and Macauley Island subaerial-emplaced samples are dominated by modes at ~80–85%, implying that submarine explosive volcanism at high eruption rates can generate clasts with similar vesicularities to their subaerial counterparts. A minor proportion of Healy and Raoul SW clasts also show a pink oxidation color, suggesting that hot clasts met air despite 0.5 to >1 km of intervening water. In contrast, Macauley dredged samples have a bimodal density spectrum dominated by clasts formed in a submarine-eruptive style that is not highly explosive. Macauley dredged pyroclasts are also the mixed products of multiple eruptions, as shown by pumice major-element chemistry, and the sea-floor deposits reflect complex volcanic and sedimentation histories. The Kermadec calderas are composite features, and wide dispersal of pumice does not require large single eruptions. When coupled with chemical constraints and textural observations, density spectra are useful for interpreting both eruptive style and the diversity of samples collected from the submarine environment.


Submarine volcanism Explosive eruption Kermadec arc Pumice 



We thank the Masters and crew members of the R.V. Tangaroa on the NZAPLUME III (2004) and TAN0706 (2007) voyages for their logistical support and Cornel de Ronde for giving CJNW the opportunity to first visit Raoul in 2004. The New Zealand Department of Conservation gave permission for the island field work, and we would especially acknowledge Karen Baird and Raoul Conservancy staff in 2004 and 2007 for their hospitality and field support. Max Borella, Darren Gravley, and Mike Rosenberg helped with field studies in 2007, and John Watson is thanked for the XRF analyses. We are grateful to Rebecca Carey and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments and to James White for his editorial help and revisions which greatly improved this manuscript. Support from the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand (VUW0613) and the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (contract C01X0702-RJW) is acknowledged, along with a Victoria University of Wellington Strategic Research Grant awarded to SJB.

Supplementary material

445_2012_604_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (62 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 62 kb)
445_2012_604_MOESM2_ESM.xls (68 kb)
ESM 2 (XLS 67 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon J. Barker
    • 1
    • 2
  • Melissa D. Rotella
    • 1
  • Colin J. N. Wilson
    • 1
  • Ian C. Wright
    • 3
  • Richard J. Wysoczanski
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Geography, Environment and Earth SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of EnvironmentAuckland UniversityAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.National Oceanography CentreUniversity of Southampton Waterfront CampusSouthamptonUK
  4. 4.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)WellingtonNew Zealand

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