Nearly instantaneous melting of snow and ice by the March 19, 1982, eruption of Mount St. Helens released a 4 × 106 m3 flood of water from the crater that was converted to a lahar (volcanic debris flow) through erosion and incorporation of sediment by the time it reached the base of the volcano. Over the next 81 km that it traveled down the Toutle River, the flood wave was progressively diluted through several mechanisms. A transformation from debris flow to hyperconcentrated streamflow began to occur about 27 km downstream from the crater, when the total sediment concentration had decreased to about 78% by weight (57% by volume). The hyperconcentrated lahar-runout flood wave, transporting immense quantities of sand in suspension, continued to experience progressive downstream dilution. Although turbulence was significantly dampened by the extremely high suspended load, very large standing waves and antidune waves were observed. The hyperconcentrated lahar-runout flow deposited an unusual, faintly stratified, coarse sand which locally contained small, isolated gravel lenses. Very similar deposits in the Quaternary stratigraphy of Mount St. Helens and other Cascades volcanoes suggest that lahars may be more frequent than previously recognized.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Downstream dilution of a lahar: Transition from debris flow to hyperconcentrated streamflow|
|Series title||Water Resources Research|
|Publisher||American Geophysical Union|