Bulletin of Volcanology

, 79:72 | Cite as

The 1914 Taisho eruption of Sakurajima volcano: stratigraphy and dynamics of the largest explosive event in Japan during the twentieth century

  • A. Todde
  • R. CioniEmail author
  • M. Pistolesi
  • N. Geshi
  • C. Bonadonna
Research Article


The 1914 Taisho eruption of Sakurijima volcano was Japan’s highest intensity and magnitude eruption of the twentieth century. After a 35-year period of quiescence, the volcano suddenly rewoke a few days before the eruption, when earthquakes began to be felt on Sakurajima Island. The eruption began on January 12, 1914, from two fissures located on opposite sides of the volcano, and was characterized by a complex time evolution and changes in eruptive styles. The eruption began with a subPlinian explosive phase in which two convective columns rose from the two fissures. Both plumes were sustained for at least 2 days. This resulted in deposition of a widely dispersed tephra sequence. After this phase, the eruption evolved to a final, waning phase, shifting toward effusive activity that lasted until April 1914. During the first weeks, effusive activity was also accompanied by ash emission. The complex sequence of events, characterized by contemporaneous explosive and effusive activity, is typical of several recently observed mid-intensity eruptions, such as during the 2011 eruption of Cordón Caulle, Chile. The stratigraphic sequence of the eruptive deposits from the Taisho eruption comprises alternating coarse-to-fine lapilli beds with ash beds dispersed toward the ESE and SE. These deposits can be subdivided into three lapilli-bearing units (Units T1, T2 and T3, which correspond to the subPlinian phase) and one ash-bearing unit (Unit T4, which corresponds to the final ash venting, accompanying the first day/weeks of lava flow activity). Grain size analyses from each unit reveal a marked polymodal distribution generally described by the sum of two or three Gaussian subpopulations. Both the modes and the relative amounts of the coarse subpopulations vary with distance from vent, with those of the fine subpopulation remaining nearly constant. Within the vertical sequence, component analysis shows a progressive increase in lithic fragments, suggesting that conduit enlargement continued until the final stages of the eruption. The estimated volume of the tephra deposit of the subPlinian phase of the eruption is 0.33 ± 0.11 km3 (dense rock equivalent (DRE) volume = 0.09 ± 0.03 km3). The height of the eruption column was also assessed by using four different isopleth maps compiled based on different strategies for the characterization of the largest clasts. The maximum height attained by the eruption column is estimated at 15.0 ± 1.2 km above the vent, resulting in a maximum mass discharge rate of 3.6 ± 1.2 × 107 kg s−1 (calculated taking into account the strong effect of wind advection). Finally, different classification schemes were applied to classify the eruption, which generally straddles the fields between Plinian and subPlinian.


Taisho eruption Sakurajima volcano Stratigraphy Plinian subPlinian 



A. Todde was partially supported by the University of Florence funds for internationalization. R. Cioni and M. Pistolesi were supported by the Italian Civil Protection in the framework of the DEVNET project granted to M. Ripepe. C. Bonadonna was supported by the FN grant no. 200021_156255. The authors are grateful to M. Ripepe, S. Biass, T. Miwa, T. Nishizawa, and P. Gabellini for discussion and assistance in the field, to M. Bagheri for discussion on the determination of the largest clasts, and to L. Dominguez for her help in laser grain size analyses. We are deeply indebted with Associate Editor Judy Fierstein and two anonymous reviewers for their accurate and propositive comments and suggestions.

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraUniversità di FirenzeFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Volcanic Risk Solutions, Institute of Agriculture and EnvironmentMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  3. 3.Geological Survey of JapanNational Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and TechnologyTsukubaJapan
  4. 4.Département des Sciences de la TerreUniversité de GenèveGenevaSwitzerland

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