Pyroclastic density currents and local topography as seen with the conveyer model

By Domenico M. Doronzo

Politecnico di Bari, South Italy

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Pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) are multiphase flows generated during explosive volcanic eruptions, and they move down the volcano, and over the surrounding topography. The flow-topography interaction can play a fundamental role in the sedimentary processes, and in the resulting deposit facies architecture, as well as can play a dramatic role in the flow behavior, and in the associated volcanic hazard. This paper aims at discussing the PDC-topography interaction theme from the viewpoint both of deposits and flow structure, by accounting for appropriate literature, and revising the concepts in light of the theoretical conveyer model of Doronzo and Dellino (2013) on sedimentation and deposition in particulate density currents. First the effects, then the causes of the flow-topography interaction are discussed, in order to follow the historical development of theme concepts. The discussion is relative in terms of inertial and forced currents, which are defined on the basis of a dimensionless quantity (SD) representing the conservation of mass. Momentum equation relating depositional unit thickness, flow shear velocity, and density contrast shows that the flow is the cause of PDC motion, whereas the density contrast sustains the momentum, and the deposits are the process effect. In particular, the flow structure is described into three parts, flow-substrate boundary zone, boundary layer (lower part), and wake region (upper part) of the current. The facies architecture of PDC deposits, and the volcanic hazard depend on fluid dynamic and hydraulic behavior represented, in light of the conveyer model, by the balance of sedimentation and deposition rate through transport and erosion ("sedimentation-deposition" ratio, SD). This balance acts between flow-substrate boundary zone and boundary layer. The paper discussion mainly applies to small-to-intermediate volume eruptions. Field and modeling examples of Vulcano tuff cone and Colli Albani maar (Italy) constrain the conveyer model, whereas the literature of very large, ignimbrite-forming eruptions, and stratovolcanism is accounted for theme completeness. The main findings are some relative guidelines on PDC-topography interaction that can be used when modeling the flow, and interpreting the pyroclastic deposits: low SD are typical of inertial currents, whereas high SD are typical of forced currents, which can vary depending on topography (JVGR 2014)

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Domenico M. Doronzo (2014), "Pyroclastic density currents and local topography as seen with the conveyer model,"

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