Complexities within the shallow conduit during Vulcanian explosions: Insights from Episode IV of the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, Alaska
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Models for initiation of Vulcanian eruptions involve disruption of a conduit-sealing plug or dome and the downward propagation of decompression and fragmentation waves into the conduit. At this time, we have a limited understanding of the physical state of the magma prior to its disruption, including the range of viscosities and vesicularities and the extent to which brecciated, outgassed, degassed, and volatile-rich melt may be co-mingled. Current models propose that the dense, outgassed dome/plug overlies an orderly, predominantly horizontally layered conduit with pressure increasing with depth. The 1912 eruption of Novarupta, Alaska, U.S.A. provided a unique situation to study Vulcanian explosions because its proximal deposits are exceptionally well preserved. After 60 hours and three episodes of Plinian activity and caldera collapse 10 km from vent, a dacite dome was extruded and completely destroyed by a Vulcanian phase. The fifth and final episode comprised of extrusion of a rhyolite dome without explosive activity, thus allowing preservation of the Episode IV Vulcanian block apron. We have collected data on over 1,300 of the largest juvenile and lithic blocks within an ~2-3 km radius from vent, making Episode IV the best mapped Vulcanian deposit in the world to-date. Sectors rich in specific lithologies (pumice, dense dacite, flow-banded clasts or breccia, +/- breadcrusting) and/or of contrasting block size suggest multiple explosions. Vesicularities of breadcrust rinds preserve syn-eruptive vesicularities and volatile contents and suggest considerable heterogeneity on length scales down to mm. Their vesicularity range is between 0.5 and 55% whereas dense dacite blocks lie between 0 and 33%. On equally short length scales, similar broad ranges for porosity/permeability and contrasts in micro-textures indicate major physical and chemical heterogeneity reflecting very local variations in the extent to which the melt was degassed or outgassed. Our new data suggest (1) that different explosions tapped small yet diverse parts of the conduit’s architecture and (2) a scenario more complicated than a simple horizontally stratified magma-filled conduit that was progressively evacuated in a top-down fashion.