Particle fabric in a small, type-2 ignimbrite flow unit (Laacher See, Germany) and implications for emplacement dynamics
Ignimbrites of the 13-ka Upper Laacher See Tephra were deposited from small, highly concentrated, moderately fluidized pyroclastic flows. Their unconsolidated nature, and the prominence of accidental Devonian slate fragments, make these ignimbrites ideal for clast fabric studies. The upper flow unit of ignimbrite M14 has characteristics typical of a type-2 ignimbrite. Layer 2a and the lower part of layer 2b of the flow unit have strong, upstream-inclined a[p] fabrics (a[p] means long particle axes parallel to flow direction). Only clasts with a/b axial ratios of 2.5 or greater preserve good a[p] fabrics, whereas the a–b planes of flat fragments dip upstream irrespective of axial ratio. The a-axis fabric becomes weaker, flatter, and more girdle-like in the upper half of layer 2b. At one locality the a-axis fabric appears to rotate 40° up through the flow unit, suggesting either shear decoupling of different levels in the moving flow or unsteadiness effects in a flow depositing progressively at its base. The existence of similarly strong a[p] fabrics in layer 2a and the lower half of layer 2b appears inconsistent with the common interpretation that ignimbrite flow units are emplaced as a plug of essentially non-shearing material (layer 2b) on a thin shear layer (layer 2a), and that the entire flow freezes en masse to form the deposit. The data suggest that, if the flow froze en masse, it was shearing pervasively through at least half its thickness. Another possibility is that the flow unit aggraded progressively from the base up, and that the fabrics record the integrated history of shear directions and intensities immediately above the bed throughout the duration of deposition.
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