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Are eruptions from linear fissures and caldera ring dykes more likely to produce pyroclastic flows?

Abstract : Turbulent volcanic jets are produced by highly-energetic explosive eruptions and may form buoyant plumes that rise many tens of kilometres into the atmosphere to form umbrella clouds or collapse to generate ground-hugging pyroclastic flows. Ash injected into the atmosphere can be transported for many hundreds of kilometres with the potential to affect climate, disrupt global air travel and cause respiratory health problems. Pyroclastic flows, by contrast, are potentially catastrophic to populations and infrastructure close to the volcano. Key to which of these two behaviours will occur is the extent to which the mechanical entrainment and mixing of ambient air into the jet by large (entraining) eddies forming the jet edge changes the density of the air–ash mixture: low entrainment rates lead to pyroclastic flows and high entrainment rates give rise to buoyant plumes. Recent experiments on particle-laden (multi-phase) volcanic jets from flared and straight-sided circular openings suggest that the likelihood for buoyant plumes will depend strongly on the shape and internal geometry of the vent region. This newly recognised sensitivity of the fate of volcanic jets to the structure of the vent is a consequence of a complex dynamic coupling between the jet and entrained solid particles, an effect that has generally been overlooked in previous studies. Building on this work, here we use an extensive series of experiments on multi-phase turbulent jets from analogue linear fissures and annular ring fractures to explore whether the restrictive vent geometry during cataclysmic caldera-forming (CCF) eruptions will ultimately lead a relatively greater frequency of pyroclastic flows than eruptions from circular vents on stratovolcanoes. Our results, understood through scaling analyses and a one-dimensional theoretical model, show that entrainment is enhanced where particle motions contribute angular momentum to entraining eddies. However, because the size of the entraining eddies scales approximately with vent width, the extent of entrainment is reduced as the vent width becomes small in comparison to its length. Consequently, our work shows that for specified mass eruption rates, the high length-to-width ratio vents typical of CCF events are more likely to produce pyroclastic flows. We suggest that the enigmatic trend in the geological record for the largest CCF eruptions to produce pyroclastic flows is an expected consequence of their being erupted through continuous or piece-wise continuous caldera ring fractures.
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D.E. Jessop, J. Gilchrist, A.M. Jellinek, Olivier Roche. Are eruptions from linear fissures and caldera ring dykes more likely to produce pyroclastic flows?. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2016, 454, pp.142 - 153. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2016.09.005⟩. ⟨hal-01637379⟩

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