Stratigraphy, Sedimentology and Inferred Flow Dynamics from the July 2015 Block-and-ash Flow Deposits at Volcán de Colima, Mexico

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Block-and-ash flows, Stratigraphy, Flow dynamics, Topography, Overbank flows

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The July 2015 block-and-ash flow (BAF) events represent the first documented series of large-volume and long-runout BAFs generated from sustained dome collapses at Volcán de Colima. This eruption is particularly exceptional at this volcano due to (1) the large volume of BAF material emplaced (0.0077 ± 0.001 km3), (2) the long runout reached by the associated BAFs (max. ~ 10 km), and (3) the short period (~ 18 h) over which two main long-sustained dome collapse events occurred (on 10 and 11 July, respectively). Stratigraphy and sedimentology of the 2015 BAF deposits exposed in the southern flank of the volcano based on lithofacies description, grain size measurements and clast componentry allowed the recognition of three main deposit facies (i.e., valley-confined, overbank and ash-cloud surge deposits). Correlations and lithofacies variations inside three main flow units from both the valley-confined and overbank deposits left from the emplacement of the second series of BAFs on 11 July provide detailed information about: (1) the distribution, volumes and sedimentological characteristics of the different units; (2) flow parameters (i.e., velocity and dynamic pressure) and mobility metrics as inferred from associated deposits; and (3) changes in the dynamics of the different flows and their material during emplacement. These data were coupled with geomorphic analyses to assess the role of the topography in controlling the behaviour and impacts of the successive BAF pulses on the volcano flanks. Finally, these findings are used to propose a conceptual model for transport and deposition mechanisms of the July 2015 BAFs at Volcán de Colima. In this model, deposition occurs by rapid stepwise aggradation of successive BAF pulses. Flow confinement in a narrow and sinuous channel enhance the mobility and runout of individual channelized BAF pulses. When these conditions occur, the progressive valley infilling from successive sustained dome-collapse events promote the overspill and lateral spreading of the upper and marginal regions of the main flow body, generating highly mobile overbank flows that travel outside of the main valley. Volume- and distance-dependent critical channel capacities for the generation of overbank flows are used to better estimate the inundation area of these hazardous unconfined pyroclastic flows. These results highlight the importance of including and correctly assessing the hazards posed by large volume and long runout BAFs associated with frequent, small VEI, sustained dome-collapse eruptions.

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 349, p. 99-116