Processes of transport and deposition of large-scale pyroclastic density currents, which transport 102−103 km3 of material, are still poorly understood. The volcanic explosivity index (VEI) 7 Campanian Ignimbrite pyroclastic density current is one such poorly understood case that is subject to lively scientific debates about its origin and processes. The Campanian Ignimbrite is related to the 39.8 ka eruption that formed the partly submarine and active Campi Flegrei caldera in Italy. The related pyroclastic density current extended over an area of more than 6000 km2 on land around the caldera, with a final runout of ∼75 km, and surmounted mountain ridges higher than 1000 m above sea level, even at distal reaches. We used physical characteristics of the ignimbrite to understand the transport and emplacement dynamics of the Campanian Ignimbrite pyroclastic density current. Thickness, mass, and clast-size distributions across paleotopography were used to infer that the main transport system was a dilute, density-stratified pyroclastic density current, which was at least 1.5 km thick, which was short-lived (possibly as short as ∼20 min), and which had a mass flow rate of ∼1011 kg/s. At its base, high-concentration undercurrents formed and interacted with the rough paleotopography, laying down a low-aspect-ratio ignimbrite sheet when on flat plains, but generating back-flows from ridges and channeling in paleovalleys. The deposit is predominantly a massive valley-pond ignimbrite facies, even across rough mountain terrains. The absence of veneer facies on steep slopes reflects the near-Newtonian rheology of the undercurrents, interpreted as fluidized dense granular flows. This work advances the interpretations of pyroclastic density current deposits, which do not necessarily directly reflect conditions in the transport system.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.
You do not have access to this content, please speak to your institutional administrator if you feel you should have access.