Abstract

Eruptions of similar explosivity can have divergent effects on the surroundings due to differences in the behavior of the tephra in the eruption column and atmosphere. Okmok volcano, located on Umnak Island in the eastern Aleutian Islands, erupted explosively between 12 July and 19 August 2008. The basaltic andesitic eruption ejected ∼0.24 km3 dense rock equivalent (DRE) of tephra, primarily directed to the northeast of the vent area. The first 4 h of the eruption produced dominantly coarse-grained tephra, but the following 5 wk of the eruption deposited almost exclusively ash, much of it very fine and deposited as ash pellets and ashy rain and mist. Meteorological storms combined with abundant plume water to efficiently scrub ash from the eruption column, with a rapid decrease in deposit thickness with distance from the vent. Grain-size analysis shows that the modes (although not their relative proportions) are very constant throughout the deposit, implying that the fragmentation mechanisms did not vary much. Grain-shape features consistent with molten fuel-coolant interaction are common. Surface and groundwater drainage into the vents provided the water for phreatomagmatic fragmentation. The available water (water that could reach the vent area during the eruption) was ∼2.8 × 1010 kg, and the erupted magma totaled ∼7 × 1011 kg, which yield an overall water:magma mass ratio of ∼0.04, but much of the water was not interactive. Although magma flux dropped from 1 × 107 kg/s during the initial 4 h to 1.8 × 105 kg/s for the remainder of the eruption, most of the erupted material was ejected during the lower-mass-flux period due to its much greater length, and this tephra was dominantly deposited within 10 km downwind of the vent. This highlights the importance of ash scrubbing in the evaluation of hazards from explosive eruptions.

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