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Reconstruction of total grain size distribution of the climactic phase of a long-lasting eruption: the example of the 2008–2013 Chaitén eruption

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Abstract

The 2008–2013 eruption of Chaitén Volcano (Chile) was a long-lasting eruption whose climactic phase (May 6, 2008) produced a sub-Plinian plume, with height ranging between 14 and 20 km that dispersed to the NE, reaching the Atlantic coast of Argentina. The erupted material was mainly of lithic origin (∼77 wt%), resulting in a unimodal total grain size distribution (TGSD) dominated by coarse ash (77 wt%), with Mdϕ of 2.7 and σϕ of 2.4. Lapilli clasts (>2 mm) dominate the proximal deposit within ~20 km of the vent, while coarse (63 μm–2 mm) and fine ash (<63 μm) sedimented as far as 800 km from vent, generating mostly poly-modal grain size distributions across the entire deposit. Given that most of the mass is sedimented in proximal areas, results show that possible contributions of later explosive events to the thickness of the distal deposit where layers are less distinguishable (>400 km) do not significantly affect the determination of the TGSD. In contrast, gaps in data sampling in the medial deposit (in particular the gap between 50 and 350 km from vent that coincides with shifts in sedimentation regimes) have large impacts on estimates of TGSD. Particle number distribution for this deposit is characterized by a high power-law exponent (3.0) following a trend very similar to the vesicle size distribution in the juvenile pyroclasts. Although this could be taken to indicate a bubble-driven fragmentation process, we suggest that fragmentation was more likely the result of a shear-driven process because of the predominance of non-vesicular products (lithics and obsidians) and the large fraction of coarse ash in the TGSD.

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Notes

  1. http://www.ees.lanl.gov/geodynamics/Wohletz/SFT.htm

  2. This estimation corrects and updates the previous estimation of Alfano et al. (2011b) and is based on the isopleth map presented in the same work. In the previous version, the estimate was erroneous due to an overestimation of the downwind limit of the 3.2-cm isopleth.

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Acknowledgments

Sebastien Biass is thanked for the implementation of the Voronoi tessellation script to describe the weight of individual polygons (https://vhub.org/resources/329). We thank Raffaello Cioni, Danilo M. Palladino and the Associate Editor (Jacopo Taddeucci) for their comments and suggestions that helped greatly to improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Fabrizio Alfano.

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Appendix A. Determination of synthetic points and sensitivity analysis

Appendix A. Determination of synthetic points and sensitivity analysis

Three large gaps in the data sampling were identified within the tephra deposit of the May 6, 2008 Chaitén eruption (Z1: 20–140 km from the vent; Z2: 260–380 km from the vent; Z3: 570–770 km from the vent; Fig. 9a of main text). Synthetic points were estimated in order to cover the lack of data in these three areas. The points were chosen along the dispersal axis and equally spaced. In order to assess the number of synthetic points required to obtain a stable TGSD, the calculation was carried out considering 3 points (dataset B1; 1 point per zone), 9 points (dataset B2; 3 points per zone) and 15 points (dataset B3; 5 points per zone), respectively (Table 2). Dataset B1 includes the synthetic points located in the middle of the zones (i.e. 80, 320 and 670 km from the vent for the areas Z1, Z2 and Z3, respectively). Dataset B2 includes the points located at 50, 80 and 110 km from the vent for Z1; 290, 320 and 650 km from the vent for Z2; 625, 670 and 715 km from the vent for Z3. Dataset B3 includes the points located at 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120 km from the vent for Z1; 280, 300, 320, 340 and 360 km from the vent for Z2; 610, 640, 670, 700 and 730 km from the vent for Z3 (Table 2).

The Mdϕ and the mass load of lapilli (X l), coarse ash (X c) and fine ash (X f) for each of these points were estimated based on the dispersal maps of Figs. 6 and 7, and using the decay-trend plots of Fig. 8 of the main text. According to the observed decay trends, no lapilli particles sedimented in these areas (Fig. 8b). Based on the extrapolated grain size parameters, a synthetic GSD for each point was determined. A normal distribution was calculated based on the Mdϕ value for each point and using a sorting determined as the average of the values observed through the deposit (i.e. 0.4). The GSDs were then corrected for the extrapolated fraction of coarse and fine ash. The resulting GSD are shown in Fig. 12.

The GSD of the synthetic points were then used to extend the original dataset (dataset A in Fig. 9b). Results of the TGSD associated with these three datasets are shown in Fig. 13. The difference of TGSD obtained using datasets B2 and B3 is small, whereas dataset B1 gives a TGSD skewed towards the coarse size fraction. We conclude that three points per zone are representative for the data gap of the climactic phase of the 2008–2013 Chaitén eruption and are sufficient to generate stable TGSD results.

Fig. 12
figure 12

Plots showing the GSD derived for each synthetic point selected the areas Z1, Z2 and Z3 (Table 2)

Fig. 13
figure 13

Plot showing the TGSD derived for datasets B1, B2 and B3 containing 3, 9 and 15 points, respectively

Table 2 Description of synthetic points where the distance from the vent (D, km) and values of Mdϕ, X c and X f fraction, and mass load (M; kg/m2) are reported. Z1, Z2 and Z3 indicate the three critical areas of Fig. 9a

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Alfano, F., Bonadonna, C., Watt, S. et al. Reconstruction of total grain size distribution of the climactic phase of a long-lasting eruption: the example of the 2008–2013 Chaitén eruption. Bull Volcanol 78, 46 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-016-1040-5

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