The 1982 eruptions of El Chichon volcano, Mexico (3): Physical properties of pyroclastic surges

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Two major pyroclastic surges generated during the 4 April 1982 eruption of El Chichon devastated an area of 153 km2 with a quasi-radial distribution around the volcano. The hot surge clouds carbonized wood throughout their extent and were too hot to allow accretionary lapilli formation by vapor condensation. Field evidence indicates voidage fraction of 0.99 in the surge cloud with extensive entrainment of air. Thermal calculations indicate that heat content of pyroclasts can heat entrained air and maintain high temperatures in the surge cloud. The dominant bed form of the surge deposits are sand waves shaped in dune forms with vertical form index of 10-20, characterized by stoss-side erosion and lee-side deposition of 1-10 cm reversely graded laminae. A systematic decrease in maximum lithic diameter with distance from source is accompanied by decrease in wavelength and amplitude. Modal analysis indicates fractionation of glass and pumice from the surge cloud relative to crystals, resulting in loss of at least 10%-25% of the cloud mass due to winnowing out of fines during surge emplacement. Greatest fractionation from the -1.0-0.0-∅ grain sizes reflects relatively lower pumice particle density in this range and segregation in the formative stages of the surge cloud. Extensive pumice rounding indicates abrasion during bed-load transport. Flow of pyroclastic debris in the turbulent surge cloud was by combination of bed-load and suspended-load transport. The surges are viewed as expanding pyroclastic gravity flows, which entrain and mix with air during transport. The balance between sedimentation at the base of the surge cloud and expansion due to entrainment of air contributed to low cloud density and internal turbulence, which persisted to the distal edge of the surge zone. © 1987 Springer-Verlag.

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Bulletin of Volcanology