Complex proximal deposition during the Plinian eruptions of 1912 at Novarupta, Alaska

Bulletin of Volcanology
By: , and 



Proximal (<3 km) deposits from episodes II and III of the 60-h-long Novarupta 1912 eruption exhibit a very complex stratigraphy, the result of at least four transport regimes and diverse depositional mechanisms. They contrast with the relatively simple stratigraphy (and inferred emplacement mechanisms) for the previously documented, better known, medial-distal fall deposits and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes ignimbrite. The proximal products include alternations and mixtures of both locally and regionally dispersed fall ejecta, and numerous thin complex deposits of pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) with no regional analogs. The locally dispersed component of the fall deposits forms sector-confined wedges of material whose thicknesses halve radially from and concentrically about the vent over distances of 100-300 m (cf. several kilometers for the medial-distal fall deposits). This locally dispersed fall material (and many of the associated PDC deposits) is rich in andesitic and banded pumices and richer in shallow-derived wall-rock lithics in comparison with the coeval medial fall units of almost entirely dacitic composition. There are no marked contrasts in grain size in the near-vent deposits, however, between locally and widely dispersed beds, and all samples of the proximal fall deposits plot as a simple continuation of grain size trends for medial-distal samples. Associated PDC deposits form a spectrum of facies from fines-poor, avalanched beds through thin-bedded, landscape-mantling beds to channelized lobes of pumice-block-rich ignimbrite. The origins of the Novarupta near-vent deposits are considered within a spectrum of four transport regimes: (1) sustained buoyant plume, (2) fountaining with co-current flow, (3) fountaining with counter-current flow, and (4) direct lateral ejection. The Novarupta deposits suggest a model where buoyant, stable, regime-1 plumes characterized most of episodes II and III, but were accompanied by transient and variable partitioning of clasts into the other three regimes. Only one short period of vent blockage and cessation of the Plinian plume occurred, separating episodes II and III, which was followed by a single PDC interpreted as an overpressured "blast" involving direct lateral ejection. In contrast, regimes 2 and 3 were reflected by spasmodic sedimentation from the margins of the jet and perhaps lower plume, which were being strongly affected by short-lived instabilities. These instabilities in turn are inferred to be associated with heterogeneities in the mixture of gas and pyroclasts emerging from the vent. Of the parameters that control explosive eruptive behavior, only such sudden and asymmetrical changes in the particle concentration could operate on time scales sufficiently short to explain the rapid changes in the proximal 1912 products. Springer-Verlag 2003.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Complex proximal deposition during the Plinian eruptions of 1912 at Novarupta, Alaska
Series title Bulletin of Volcanology
DOI 10.1007/s00445-003-0297-7
Volume 66
Issue 2
Year Published 2004
Language English
Contributing office(s) Volcano Hazards Program
Description 39 p.
First page 95
Last page 133
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Novarupta