Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 10, pp 2363–2381 | Cite as

Transitions between fall phases and pyroclastic density currents during the AD 79 eruption at Vesuvius: building a transient conduit model from the textural and volatile record

  • Thomas SheaEmail author
  • Lucia Gurioli
  • Bruce F. Houghton
Research Article


The magmatic phase of the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius produced alternations of fall and pyroclastic density current (PDC) deposits. A previous investigation demonstrated that the formation of several PDCs was linked with abrupt increases in the proportion of denser juvenile clasts within the eruptive column. Under the premise that juvenile clast density is controlled by vesiculation processes within the conduit, we investigate the processes responsible for these variations at or close to fragmentation levels. Pumice textures (vesicle sizes, numbers, and connectivity combined with crystal textures) from the AD 79 PDC deposits are compared to those from interbedded fall samples. Both PDC and fall deposits preserve textures that represent a full spectrum of degassing and outgassing processes, from bubble nucleation to collapse. Combining the textural and volatile (groundmass H2O) data, we derive a conduit model that satisfies all the textural and physical observations made for this phase of the eruption: lateral vesicularity/density stratifications are produced by maturing of bubble textures with superimposed localized shearing of bubble-rich magmas, which enhance outgassing of H2O. The incorporation of denser slower-moving magma from the conduit margins (“lateral magma density gradient”) is likely to be responsible for the higher abundances of dense juvenile pumice that triggered partial column collapses. We also illustrate how variations in the fragmentation depth (tapping a “vertical magma density gradient”) can be responsible for variations in erupted clast density distributions, and potentially in the extent of degassing/outgassing.


Vesuvius Pumice density Vesicle and crystal textures Volatiles in glass Strain localization 



The authors acknowledge NSF grant EAR-0537950. We thank Thomas Giachetti and Cyrille Galven for their help with He-pycnometer measurements. We thank Raffello Cioni, Kathy Cashman, Julia Hammer, Tim Druitt, Sarah Fagents, and John Allen for informal comments and discussions. Alain Burgisser, an anonymous reviewer and Jim Gardner are acknowledged for their constructive formal reviews. This is Laboratory of Excellence ClerVolc contribution n°38.

Supplementary material

445_2012_668_MOESM1_ESM.doc (60 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 59 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Shea
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lucia Gurioli
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Bruce F. Houghton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geology and Geophysics, SOESTUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Clermont UniversitéUniversité Blaise Pascal, Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansClermont-FerrandFrance
  3. 3.CNRS, UMR 6524, LMVClermont-FerrandFrance
  4. 4.IRD, R 163, LMVClermont-FerrandFrance

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