Modelling Tephra Thickness and Particle Size Distribution of the 1913 Eruption of Volcán de Colima, Mexico

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Book Chapter

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Tephra, Fallout model, Numerical model, Advection-diffusion equation, Tephra stratigraphy, Volatile content, Volcanic eruption, Volcán de Colima, Eruption volume

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A crucial problem at most volcanoes is reconstructing past eruptions from the geological record. The rapid erosion of many volcanic terrains results in geologically recent eruptions leaving a relatively sparse record of the event. Here we consider the tephra-stratigraphic record of the 1913 eruption of Volcán de Colima, a recent but greatly eroded tephra fallout deposit. A total of 38 stratigraphic sections of the 1913 deposit have been analysed for thickness, granulometry and geochemistry. The 1913 scoria are hornblende and two-pyroxene andesites with approximately 58 wt% SiO2, providing a geochemical and petrographic signature that is distinct from earlier (1818) and later tephra fallout deposits. Tephra2, a tephra dispersion computer code based on the advection-diffusion equation, is used to model thickness variation and particle size distribution of the pyroclasts for the 1913 deposit. Based on computer simulations, the observed tephra stratigraphy is best fit with a total eruption mass of ~5.5 × 1010 kg. Computer simulations including reports of tephra accumulation from the historical record produces an alternative deposit model with a finer median particle size (~1.77 ϕ), a higher eruption column (~25 km above mean sea level, amsl), and a greater total eruption mass (~1.4 × 1011 kg). This larger eruption magnitude is supported by modelling the granulometry of the 38 stratigraphic sections. The models suggest a median deposit particle size of at least 2ϕ, a deposit mass of 1–5 × 1011 kg (VEI 4), and that significant segregation by particle size as a function of height occurred in the 1913 eruption column. This analysis highlights potential bias in eruption magnitude estimates that use only thickness of proximal deposits, and the advantage of modelling the granulometry of the deposit in such circumstances.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Modelling Tephra Thickness and Particle Size Distribution of the 1913 Eruption of Volcánde Colima, Mexico, in N. Varley, C. B. Connor & J. C. Komorowski (Eds.), Volcan de Colima, Springer, p. 81-110