Tephra stratigraphy and eruptive volume of the May, 2008, Chaitén eruption, Chile

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Chaitén, Tephra, Stratigraphy, Explosive eruption, Eruptive volume

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On May 1st 2008 Mount Chaitén (southern Chile) interrupted a long period of quiescence, generating a sequence of explosive eruptions and causing the evacuation of Chaitén town located a few kilometers south of the volcano. The activity was characterized by several explosive events each associated with plumes which reached up to about 19 km above sea level. The products were dispersed across a wide area, with the finest ash reaching the Atlantic coast of Argentina. Our field observations in the proximal-medial area (3–25 km from the vent) indicate that the May 2008 tephra deposit consists of numerous layers, most of which can be correlated with individual eruptive events. These layers vary from extremely fine-grained ash to layers of lapilli and blocks, composed of both juvenile and lithic material. Here we describe the stratigraphy and physical characteristics of the May 2008 deposits, and propose a reconstruction of the timing of the May 2008 events. The deposits are mainly associated with the three main explosive phases which occurred on 1st–2nd May, 3rd–5th May and 6th May, with an estimated bulk tephra volume of 0.5–1.0 km3 (integration of both exponential and power-law fitting). For the 6th May event, represented by a layer composed mainly of lithic lapilli and blocks (>2 mm), an isopleth map was compiled from which a 19 km plume height was determined, which is in good agreement with satellite observations.

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Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 73, issue 5, p. 613-630.