Martí, J., Doronzo, D. M., Pedrazzi, D., & Colombo, F. (2019). Topographical controls on small-volume pyroclastic flows. Sedimentology, 0(ja).


Emplacement of small‐volume (<0·1 km3) pyroclastic flows is significantly influenced by topography. The Arico ignimbrite on Tenerife (Canary Islands) is a characteristic small‐volume pyroclastic flow deposit emplaced on high relief topography. The pyroclastic flow flowed down pre‐existing valleys on the southern slopes of the island. In proximal areas deep (up to 100 m) valleys acted as efficient conduits for the pyroclastic flow, which was mostly channelled; in this particular area the ignimbrite corresponds to a homogeneous, moderately welded deposit, consisting of flattened pumices in an abundant ashy matrix with a relatively low lithic fragment content. In intermediate zones significant changes occur in the steepness of the slope and, although still channelled, here the pyroclastic flow was influenced by hydraulic jumps. In this area, two different units can be clearly distinguished in the ignimbrite: the lower unit is composed of a lithic‐rich ground‐layer deposit that formed at the turbulent, highly concentrated head of the flow; the upper unit consists of a well welded pumice‐rich deposit that occasionally reveals a basal layer formed by shearing with the lower part. This division into two units is maintained as far as distal areas near the present‐day coastline, where the slope is very gentle or null and the ignimbrite is not channelled. The ground layer is not found in distal areas. The ignimbrite here only consists of the upper unit, which is occasionally repeated due to a surging process provoked by the lower flow speed, as the pyroclastic flow spread out of the channelled zone. A theoretical model on how topography controlled the deposition of the Arico ignimbrite is derived by interpreting the observed lithological and sedimentological variations in terms of changes in topography and bedrock morphology. This new model is of general applicability and will help to explain other deposits of similar characteristics.

Reference article

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