The thermal evolution and dynamics of pyroclasts and pyroclastic density currents
Benage, Mary Catherine
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The thermal evolution of pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) is the result of entrainment of ambient air, particle concentration, and initial eruptive temperature, which all impact PDC dynamics and their hazards, such as runout distance. The associated hazards and opaqueness of PDCs make it impossible for in-situ entrainment efficiencies or concentration measurements that would provide critical information on the thermal evolution and physical processes of PDCs. The thermal evolution of explosive eruptive events such as volcanic plumes and pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) is reflected in the textures of the material they deposit. A multiscale model is developed to evaluate how the rinds of breadcrust bombs can be used as a unique thermometer to examine the thermal evolution of PDCs. The multiscale, integrated model examines how bubble growth, pyroclast cooling, and dynamics of PDC and projectile pyroclasts form unique pyroclast morphology. Rind development is examined as a function of transport regime (PDC and projectile), transport properties (initial current temperature and current density), and pyroclast properties (initial water content and radius). The model reveals that: 1) rinds of projectile pyroclasts are in general thicker and less vesicular than those of PDC pyroclasts; 2) as the initial current temperature decreases due to initial air entrainment, the rinds on PDC pyroclasts progressively increase in thickness; and 3) rind thickness increases with decreasing water concentration and decreasing clast radius. Therefore, the modeled pyroclast’s morphology is dependent not only on initial water concentration but also on the cooling rate, which is determined by the transport regime. The developed secondary thermal proxy is then applied to the 2006 PDCs from the Tungurahua eruption to constrain the entrainment efficiency and thermal evolution of PDCs. A three-dimensional multiphase Eulerian-Eulerian-Lagrangian (EEL) model is coupled to topography and field data such as paleomagnetic data and rind thicknesses of collected pyroclasts to study the entrainment efficiency and thus the thermal history of PDCs at Tungurahua volcano, Ecuador. The modeled results that are constrained with observations and thermal proxies demonstrate that 1) efficient entrainment of air to the upper portion of the current allows for rapid cooling, 2) the channelized pyroclastic density currents may have developed a stable bed load region that was inefficient at cooling and 3) the PDCs had temperatures of 600-800K in the bed load region but the upper portion of the currents cooled down to ambient temperatures. The results have shown that PDCs can be heterogeneous in particle concentration, temperature, and dynamics and match observations of PDCs down a volcano and the thermal proxies. Lastly, the entrainment efficiencies of PDCs increases with increasing PDC temperature and entrainment varies spatially and temporally. Therefore, the assumption of a well-mixed current with a single entrainment coefficient cannot fully solve the thermal evolution and dynamics of the PDC.