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Abstract

Vulcanian explosions generated at Soufrière Hills Volcano between 2008 and 2010 varied from simple events involving minimal pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) to complex events involving more than one explosion. Calculated volumes for the deposits of the PDCs formed by these explosions ranged up to 2.7×106 m3, with more than half the explosions having volumes greater than 1×106 m3. The deposits formed by the explosions varied in lithology, with some explosions generating pumice-rich PDCs (e.g. 29 July 2008 and 11 February 2010) showing development of sinuous lobes. These explosions are similar to those formed in 1997, with gas-rich, conduit-derived magma being the dominant driving mechanism. Other explosions were pumice-poor (c. 5 wt% pumice) and generated morphologically distinct PDC deposits. Many of the pumice-poor explosions were associated with lower tephra plumes of <8 km, but were some of the largest volume events in terms of PDC production and suggest a generation mechanism involving destruction of significant quantities of the lava dome. Analysis of video footage shows that PDC formation was pulsatory, probably related to destabilization of portions of the lava dome during the initial phases of the explosion.

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