Abstract

Integrating field observations and rock-magnetic measurements, we report how a turbulent pyroclastic density current interacted with and moved through an urban area. The data are from the most energetic, turbulent pyroclastic density current of the A.D. 79 eruption of Vesuvius, Italy, which partially destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii. Our results show that the urban fabric was able to divide the lower portion of the current into several streams that followed the city walls and the intracity roads. Vortices, revealed by upstream particle orientations and decreases in deposit temperature, formed downflow of obstacles or inside cavities. Although these perturbations affected only the lower part of the current and were localized, they could represent, in certain cases, cooler zones within which chances of human survival are increased. Our integrated field data for pyroclastic density current temperature and flow direction, collected for the first time across an urban environment, enable verification of coupled thermodynamic numerical models and their hazard simulation abilities.

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