Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Geology

Major Professor

Charles B. Connor, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Costanza Bonadonna, Ph.D.

Keywords

Tephra fall, Plinian eruptions, Sedimentation models, Inversion techniques, Terminal velocity

Abstract

Tephra deposits are one of the possible outcomes of explosive volcanic eruptions and are the result of vertical settling of volcanic particles that have been expelled from the volcanic vent into the atmosphere, following magma fragmentation within the volcanic conduit. Tephra fallout represents the main volcanic hazard to populated areas and critical facilities. Therefore, it is crucial to better understand processes that lead to tephra transport, sedimentation and hazards. In this study, and based on detailed mapping and sampling of the tephra deposit of the 2450 BP Plinian eruption of Pululagua volcano (Ecuador), I investigate tephra deposits through a variety of approaches, including empirical and analytical modeling of tephra thickness and grain size data to infer important eruption source parameters (e.g. column height, total mass ejected, total grain size distribution of the deposit).

I also use a statistical approach (smoothed bootstrap with replacement method) to assess the uncertainty in the eruptive parameters. The 2450 BP Pululagua volcanic plume dynamics were also explored through detailed grain size analysis and 1D modeling of tephra accumulation. Finally, I investigate the influence of particle shape on tephra accumulation on the ground through a quantitative and comprehensive study of the shape of volcanic ash. As the global need for energy is expected to grow in the future, many future natural hazard studies will likely involve the assessment of volcanic hazards at critical facilities, including nuclear power plants. I address the potential hazards from tephra fallout, pyroclastic flows and lahars for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (Philippines) posed by three nearby volcanoes capable of impacting the site during an explosive eruption.

I stress the need for good constraints (stratigraphic analysis and events dating) on past eruptive events to better quantify the probability of future events at potentially active volcanoes, the need for probabilistic approaches in such volcanic hazard assessments to address a broad range of potential eruption scenarios, and the importance of considering coupled volcanic processes (e.g. tephra fallout leading to lahars) in volcanic hazard assessments.

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