Quenching of steam-charged pumice: Implications for submarine pyroclastic volcanism
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Allen, SR and Fiske, RS and Cashman, KV, Quenching of steam-charged pumice: Implications for submarine pyroclastic volcanism, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 274, (1-2) pp. 40-49. ISSN 0012-821X (2008) [Refereed Article]
Huge quantities of silicic pumice have been deposited in intra-oceanic convergent margin settings throughout Earth's history. The association of submarine silicic calderas with thick proximal accumulations of pumice lapilli suggests that these pyroclasts were deposited as a direct result of submarine eruptions. Yet when first erupted, these highly vesicular, gas-filled clasts had densities significantly less than seawater. Experiments carried out 1-atm on heated pumice samples whose vesicles were charged with steam, the dominant component of magmatic volatiles show that buoyancy of freshly erupted submarine pumice is transient. Upon quenching, the phase change of steam-to-liquid water creates strong negative pore pressures within the pumice vesicles that accelerate the absorption of surrounding water, generating high-density pumice and promoting rapid clast sinking. Variations in the physical properties of steam with temperature and pressure have important implications for submarine pyroclastic eruptions. Firstly, highly vesicular pumice can be deposited on the seafloor at temperatures elevated significantly above ambient if they are erupted at sufficient depths to remain wholly submarine (> ∼ 200 m) and either the fluid in which they cool contains heated water and/or they only absorb sufficient water to sink. Secondly, the rapid increase in density of the eruption column caused by condensation and the transition from buoyant (gas-filled) to denser (water-saturated) pumice lapilli, together with turbulent mixing with the surrounding seawater favour collapse and transport of pyroclasts in water-supported gravity currents. Finally, this mixing of the ejecta with seawater and the ease of water ingestion into permeable pumice clasts suggest that water-supported transport mechanisms can operate as primary dispersal processes in explosive submarine eruptions. © 2008 Elsevier B.V.
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