Directed volcanic blasts are powerful explosions with a significant laterally directed component which can generate devastating, high-energy pyroclastic density currents (PDCs). Such blasts are an important class of eruptive phenomena, but quantified understanding of their dynamics and effects is still incomplete. Here we use 2-D and 3-D multiparticle thermofluid dynamic flow codes to examine a powerful volcanic blast that occurred on Montserrat in December 1997. On the basis of the simulations, we divide the blast into three phases: an initial burst phase that lasts roughly 5 s and involves rapid expansion of the gas-pyroclast mixture, a gravitational collapse phase that occurs when the erupted material fails to mix with sufficient air to form a buoyant column and thus collapses asymmetrically, and a PDC phase that is dominated by motion parallel to the ground surface and is influenced by topography. We vary key input parameters such as total gas energy and total solid mass to understand their influence on simulations, and we compare the simulations with independent field observations of damage and deposits, demonstrating that the models generally capture important large-scale features of the natural phenomenon. We also examine the 2-D and 3-D model results to estimate the flow Mach number and conclude that the range of damage sustained at villages on Montserrat can be reasonably explained by the spatial and temporal distribution of the dynamic pressure associated with subsonic PDCs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science