An experimental evaluation of the role of water vapor and collisional energy on ash aggregation in explosive volcanic eruptions
Telling, Jennifer Whitney
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Eruption dynamics are sensitive to ash aggregation, and ash aggregates (e.g. accretionary lapilli) are commonly found in eruptive deposits, yet few experiments have been conducted on aggregation phenomena using natural materials. Experiments were developed to produce a probabilistic relationship for the efficiency of ash aggregation with respect to particle size, collision kinetic energy and atmospheric water vapor. The laboratory experiments were carried out in an enclosed tank designed to allow for the control of atmospheric water vapor. A synthetic ash proxy, ballotini, and ash from the 2006 eruption of Tungurahua, in Ecuador, were examined for their aggregation potential. Image data was recorded with a high speed camera and post-processed to determine the number of collisions, energy of collisions and probability of aggregation. Aggregation efficiency was dominantly controlled by collision kinetic energy and little to no dependence on atmospheric water vapor was seen in the range of relative humidity conditions tested, 20 to 80%. Equations governing the relationships between aggregation efficiency and collision kinetic energy and the related particle Stokes number, respectively, were determined for implementation into large scale numerical volcanic models.