Lateral blasts at andesitic and dacitic volcanoes can produce a variety of direct hazards, including ballistic projectiles which can be thrown to distances of at least 10 km and pyroclastic density flows which can travel at high speed to distances of more than 30 km. Indirect effect that may accompany such explosions include wind-borne ash, pyroclastic flows formed by the remobilization of rock debris thrown onto sloping ground, and lahars. Two lateral blasts occurred at a lava dome on the north flank of Mount St. Helens about 1200 years ago; the more energetic of these threw rock debris northeastward across a sector of about 30?? to a distance of at least 10 km. The ballistic debris fell onto an area estimated to be 50 km2, and wind-transported ash and lapilli derived from the lateral-blast cloud fell on an additional lobate area of at least 200 km2. In contrast, the vastly larger lateral blast of May 18, 1980, created a devastating pyroclastic density flow that covered a sector of as much as 180??, reached a maximum distance of 28 km, and within a few minutes directly affected an area of about 550 km2. The May 18 lateral blast resulted from the sudden, landslide-induced depressurization of a dacite cryptodome and the hydrothermal system that surrounded it within the volcano. We propose that lateral-blast hazard assessments for lava domes include an adjoining hazard zone with a radius of at least 10 km. Although a lateral blast can occur on any side of a dome, the sector directly affected by any one blast probably will be less than 180??. Nevertheless, a circular hazard zone centered on the dome is suggested because of the difficulty of predicting the direction of a lateral blast. For the purpose of long-term land-use planning, a hazard assessment for lateral blasts caused by explosions of magma bodies or pressurized hydrothermal systems within a symmetrical volcano could designate a circular potential hazard area with a radius of 35 km centered on the volcano. For short-term hazard assessments, if seismicity and deformation indicate that magma is moving toward the flank of a volcano, it should be recognized that a landslide could lead to the sudden unloading of a magmatic or hydrothermal system and thereby cause a catastrophic lateral blast. A hazard assessment should assume that a lateral blast could directly affect an area at least 180?? wide to a distance of 35 km from the site of the explosion, irrespective of topography. ?? 1986 Springer-Verlag.
Additional publication details
Lateral blasts at Mount St. Helens and hazard zonation