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Journal Articles Geological Society of America Bulletin Year : 2022

The grainsize of volcanic fall deposits: Spatial trends and physical controls


Volcanic tephra fall deposits, which form during explosive eruptions, are commonly characterized in terms of their thickness and grainsize. While significant efforts have been undertaken to relate spatial trends in thickness to plume dispersion processes, comparably few studies have focused on understanding variations in grainsize. Yet, grainsize is a key parameter providing insight into eruption dynamics, from magma fragmentation to plume transport processes, and modulates the impacts of tephra. Here, we present a set of grainsize data extracted from the published record for 56 deposits that represent a range of eruption intensities and magnitudes. We systematically analyze the deposits in terms of modality (bimodal or unimodal grainsize distributions) and provide the median particle diameter with distance from source for component distribution modes. We found that bimodal fall deposits are formed by eruptions with large amounts of fine particles (<100 μm) and that all tephra-fall deposits show characteristic patterns of grainsize decay with distance from source that can be related to eruption plume height and thus intensity. The grainsize decay trends are also related to ash dispersion and deposition processes such as individual particle settling versus collective settling mechanisms. The maximum distance from source reached by particles of different sizes is controlled by a combination of source and transport processes. This data set provides insight into the preservation potential of deposits of different grainsizes at varying distances from their sources. Finally, we emphasize the importance of using grainsize trends in combination with thickness trends to interpret tephra-fall deposit records.


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Dates and versions

hal-03854740 , version 1 (16-11-2022)
hal-03854740 , version 2 (20-11-2023)





Julia Eychenne, Samantha L Engwell. The grainsize of volcanic fall deposits: Spatial trends and physical controls. Geological Society of America Bulletin, In press, ⟨10.1130/B36275.1⟩. ⟨hal-03854740v2⟩
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