Abstract

Thin-bedded, dacitic, pumiceous pyroclastic-flow deposits partly cover the steep northern flank of Mount St. Helens volcano, Washington. They are termed proximal bedded pyroclastic-flow (PBPF) deposits and were formed during the eruption of May 18, 1980. These unconsolidated deposits, as much as 20 m thick, are characterized by well-defined, chiefly plane-parallel bedding sets separated by erosion surfaces. Most beds dip generally parallel to the slope of the underlying volcano flank, which averages 15° to the north but locally is as much as 30°. Individual beds range in thickness from 2 mm to >1 m. Cross-bedding, in which bedding sets dip gently to the north or locally to the south, is abundant. Cross-bedding is generally associated with large longitudinal dunes, apparently antidunes. Some cross-bedding sets, however, constitute small longitudinal anti-dunes (chute-and-pool structures) containing stoss-side beds that migrated south and dip steeply south toward the crater source.

We suggest that PBPF deposits, base-surge deposits, and ignimbrite-veneer deposits are products of a broad spectrum of high-flow–regime pyroclastic processes. PBPF deposits at Mount St. Helens formed during deposition of high-velocity, partly turbulent, dry, fluidized pyroclastic flows that poured profusely down the volcano flank on May 18. Some beds of the PBPF deposits probably were deposited from typical high-concentration laminar pyroclastic flows. Other beds, especially those that display evidence of high-angle stoss-side accumulation, were probably deposited from low-concentration turbulent flow under high velocity as pyroclastic surges. Most beds in the PBPF deposits, however, may have formed during transitional flow conditions. Pyroclastic-surge and transitional flow-surge conditions may have resulted when the flows exceeded the threshold velocity or threshold minimum particle concentration for pyroclastic flows while lofting over obstacles or depressions or after collapse from Plinian ash columns.

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