Major slope failures are a significant degradational process at volcanoes. Slope failures and associated explosive eruptions have resulted in more than 20 000 fatalities in the past 400 years; the historic record provides evidence for at least six of these events in the past century. Several historic debris avalanches exceed 1 km3 in volume. Holocene avalanches an order of magnitude larger have traveled 50-100 km from the source volcano and affected areas of 500-1500 km2. Historic eruptions associated with major slope failures include those with a magmatic component (Bezymianny type) and those solely phreatic (Bandai type). The associated gravitational failures remove major segments of the volcanoes, creating massive horseshoe-shaped depressions commonly of caldera size. The paroxysmal phase of a Bezymianny-type eruption may include powerful lateral explosions and pumiceous pyroclastic flows; it is often followed by construction of lava dome or pyroclastic cone in the new crater. Bandai-type eruptions begin and end with the paroxysmal phase, during which slope failure removes a portion of the edifice. Massive volcanic landslides can also occur without related explosive eruptions, as at the Unzen volcano in 1792. The main potential hazards from these events derive from lateral blasts, the debris avalanche itself, and avalanche-induced tsunamis. Lateral blasts produced by sudden decompression of hydrothermal and/or magmatic systems can devastate areas in excess of 500km2 at velocities exceeding 100 m s-1. The ratio of area covered to distance traveled for the Mount St. Helens and Bezymianny lateral blasts exceeds that of many pyroclastic flows or surges of comparable volume. The potential for large-scale lateral blasts is likely related to the location of magma at the time of slope failure and appears highest when magma has intruded into the upper edifice, as at Mount St. Helens and Bezymianny. Debris avalanches can move faster than 100 ms-1 and travel tens of kilometers. When not confined by valley walls, avalanches can affect wide areas beyond the volcano's flanks. Tsunamis from debris avalanches at coastal volcanoes have caused more fatalities than have the landslides themselves or associated eruptions. The probable travel distance (L) of avalanches can be estimated by considering the potential vertical drop (H). Data from a catalog of around 200 debris avalanches indicates that the H/L rations for avalanches with volumes of 0.1-1 km3 average 0.13 and range 0.09-0.18; for avalanches exceeding 1 km3, H/L ratios average 0.09 and range 0.5-0.13. Large-scale deformation of the volcanic edefice and intense local seismicity precede many slope failures and can indicate the likely failure direction and orientation of potential lateral blasts. The nature and duration of precursory activity vary widely, and the timing of slope faliure greatly affects the type of associated eruption. Bandai-type eruptions are particularly difficult to anticipate because they typically climax suddenly without precursory eruptions and may be preceded by only short periods of seismicity. ?? 1987 Springer-Verlag.
Additional Publication Details
Volcanic hazards from Bezymianny- and Bandai-type eruptions