Eruptive and depositional models for units 3 and 4 of the 1.85 ka Taupo eruption: Implications for the nature of large-scale 'wet' eruptions.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Phreatomagmatic eruptions result from the explosive interaction between magma and some external source of water, and produce deposits which are usually distinctive in nature from those of magmatic eruptions. The widespread deposits of large-scale phreatomagmatic eruptions (usually termed Phreatoplinian) are poorly studied relative to their magmatic counterparts and, consequently, current models for large-scale phreatomagmatic volcanism remain speculative. The Hatepe ash and Rotongaio ash (units 3 and 4 of the 1.85 ka Taupo eruption) are two classical widespread phreatomagmatic fall deposits. These have been examined in fine detail and sampled, for the first time, at a mm-scale, with the intention of quantifying vertical and lateral variations within these deposits and improving our understanding of the eruptive mechanisms and depositional processes during large-scale 'wet' eruptions. The Hatepe ash (1.75 km3) is a widespread (>15 000 km2, individual subunit bt values = 4.4 to 5.5 km), multiple-bedded, poorly-sorted pumiceous fall deposit. The fines-rich character and widespread occurrence of ash aggregates in the proximal to medial dispersal areas are indicators of a phreatomagmatic origin. Subunits contain multiple layers with a wide range of dispersal and grain size characteristics, and a number of distinctive primary lithofacies have been defined which characterise the changes in eruptive conditions and main depositional modes during Hatepe volcanism. The predominantly fine grained clasts (Mdø= 3.3-4.5), along with perhaps 20-25 wt.% liquid, were transported and deposited in the form of damp to wet 'mud lumps' and accretionary lapilli. Dispersal was from dense, 'wet' plumes which promoted the cohesion and aggregation of liquid-coated fine particles. This mode of transport and deposition was dominant during relatively long-lived episodes of relatively low discharge rate, with higher water/magma ratios at the vent and liquid/particle ratios in plumes. When magma discharge rate was relatively high and water/magma ratios low, fines-poor, plinian-style deposits (Mdø = -2.2 to 0.63) were produced by discrete particle fall from high (~25-30 km), relatively 'dry' plumes. Minor, short-lived fluctuations in discharge rate produced episodes of mixed discrete and ash aggregate fall which produced poly- and bimodal deposits (Mdø = 2.5-3) in proximal and inner-medial areas. Lateral emplacement by dilute, turbulent pyroclastic density currents was important in the proximal environment. The range and indices of Hatepe ash juvenile clast vesicularities (50-90%, and 75% vesicles, respectively) indicate that fragmentation was driven by magmatic volatiles but that water played some part in quenching. The minimal variation in juvenile clast vesicularity through the deposit and between the facies types indicates that the state of the Hatepe magma remained a uniform foam, and that the mechanism of fragmentation (but not the water/magma ratio) was consistent throughout Hatepe volcanism. Facies analysis and mapping of internal variations in ash dispersal confirm that the Hatepe ash is not the product of simple sustained magma discharge, but was actually the result of a continuous but highly irregular flux, with fluctuations in magma supply, sometimes over very short time intervals, resulting in a range of eruptive styles and depositional modes. The Rotongaio ash (0.8 km3) is a widespread (>10 000 km2, subunit bt values = 2.9 to 5km), poorly-sorted fall deposit with abundant evidence for the important involvement of liquid water at the vent and in the plume. Modes of deposition were similar to the Hatepe ash; dominantly damp to wet mud lump fallout (Mdø= 3.9 to 5.5), but with minor episodes of discrete particle fall (Mdø = -1.1 to 1.9) and mixed discrete and aggregate fall (Mdø= 1.2 to 2.9) caused by fluctuations in discharge rate. An additional depositional mode in medial areas during Rotongaio volcanism was by dilute, turbulent density currents, derived from particle-laden downbursts from the umbrella region of dense, wet, convectively-unstable plumes. Such a process may account for occurrences of cross-stratification in the medial-distal parts of other widespread ash falls. Secondary processes such as fluvial erosion and reworking, and soft-sediment deformation and slurry-flow were important depositional modes that operated syneruptively during Rotongaio (and Hatepe ash) volcanism. The very close association in time and space between primary and secondary lithofacies implies that there was a strong genetic link between the style of primary eruptive processes and the nature and extent of the secondary modification. In many cases the 'secondary' processes formed a continuum with primary depositional processes, influenced by the liquid/particle ratio of ash fallout and inherent to the mode of eruption. Throughout deposition of the Rotongaio ash a delicate balance always existed between primary accumulation, erosion and redeposition. The Rotongaio ash differs from the Hatepe ash, and most other widespread ash fall deposits, in a number of important ways which indicate the Rotongaio ash is not a typical phreatoplinian deposit; 1) it is extremely finely laminated in proximal exposures and many of these beds cannot be traced into the medial environment indicating it is the product of multiple, discrete and non-sustained explosions which dispersed material along a number of axes and with a wide range of thinning rates, 2) juvenile clasts are mostly poorly- to non-vesicular and clast populations span a very wide range of densities (0-65% vesicles) indicating that the Rotongaio magma was partially degassed and heterogeneous (unlike the Hatepe ash and other pumiceous phreatoplinian deposits), and fragmentation was driven not by vesiculation, but largely by external volatiles, 3) the lack of any significant coarse component compared to the Hatepe ash at anyone site supports a fundamentally different mode of fragmentation for Rotongaio volcanism and vent processes which probably involved significant recycling of clasts through the vent. Detailed analysis of the Hatepe ash and Rotongaio ash has provided some interesting insights into the nature of large-scale phreatomagmatic eruptions. Ash dispersal patterns for subunits of the two deposits indicate that 'wet' and 'dry' plumes, even of comparatively small magnitudes (0.02 to 0.8 km3 subunit volumes) behave in distinctive ways which hint at fundamentally different dynamics of dispersal. Assessment of lateral variations in clast size populations suggest the differences between proximal strongly fines-segregated 'dry' facies and the fines-rich 'wet' facies is an artefact controlled mostly by the initial liquid/solid ratio in the plume rather than the mechanism of fragmentation.