The 1815 Tambora ash fall: Implications for transport and deposition of distal ash on land and in the deep sea

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Tambora volcano lies on the Sanggar Peninsula of Sumbawa Island in the Indonesian archipelago. During the great 1815 explosive eruption, the majority of the erupted pyroclastic material was dispersed and subsequently deposited into the Indian Ocean and Java Sea. This study focuses on the grain size distribution of distal 1815 Tambora ash deposited in the deep sea compared to ash fallen on land. Grain size distribution is an important factor in assessing potential risks to aviation and human health, and provides additional information about the ash transport mechanisms within volcanic umbrella clouds. Grain size analysis was performed using high precision laser diffraction for a particle range of 0. 2 μm-2 mm diameter. The results indicate that the deep-sea samples provide a smooth transition to the land samples in terms of grain size distributions despite the different depositional environments. Even the very fine ash fraction (<10 μm) is deposited in the deep sea, suggesting vertical density currents as a fast and effective means of transport to the seafloor. The measured grain size distribution is consistent with an improved atmospheric gravity current sedimentation model that takes into account the finite duration of an eruption. In this model, the eruption time and particle fall velocity are the critical parameters for assessing the ash component depositing while the cloud advances versus the ash component depositing once the eruption terminates. With the historical data on eruption duration (maximum 24 h) and volumetric flow rate of the umbrella cloud (~1. 5-2. 5 × 1011 m3/s) as input to the improved model, and assuming a combination of 3 h Plinian phase and 21 h co-ignimbrite phase, it reduces the mean deviation of the predicted versus observed grain size distribution by more than half (~9. 4 % to ~3. 7 %) if both ash components are considered. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

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Bulletin of Volcanology