Complex tephra dispersion from 3D plume modeling using ATHAM

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Bryan C Nicholson and Shannon E Kobs-Nawotniak, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID, United States
Most volcanic hazard assessments are based on a classic inversion tool for tephra deposits that relies on a simple integral model to explain the eruption plume. While this tool is adequate for first-order predictions of tephra deposition under no-wind conditions, the simplifying assumptions make it unreliable for ambient winds >10 m/s. Advances in computational power now make it possible to improve the inversion tool using 3D fluid dynamics. We do this with the physics-based Active Tracer High-resolution Atmospheric Model (ATHAM) to model tephra dispersion and deposition from volcanic eruption columns. The model, when run in 3D, is able to capture the complex morphology of bent plumes. Tephra distributions produced by these morphologies differ significantly from distributions created by idealized advection solutions, reflecting the effects of counter-rotating vortex pairs, puffing modes, or plume bifurcation. The modeled tephra deposition better captures the complex effects of wind-plume interaction, allowing us to update classic inversion tools with more realistic weak plume conditions consistent with typical historical explosive eruptions.