The roseau ash: Deep-sea tephra deposits from a major eruption on Dominica, lesser antilles arc

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Two extensive marine tephra layers recovered by piston coring in the western equatorial Atlantic and eastern Caribbean have been correlated by electron microprobe analyses of glass shards and mineral phases to the Pleistocene Roseau tuff on Dominica in the Lesser Antilles arc. Tephra deposition and transport to the deep sea was primarily controlled by two processes related to two different styles of eruptive activity: a plinian airfall phase and a pyroclastic flow phase. A plinian phase produced a relatively thin (1-8 cm) airfall ash layer in the western Atlantic, covering an area of 3.0 × 105 km2 with a volume of 13 km3 (tephra). The majority of the airfall tephra was transported by antitrade winds at altitudes of 6-17 km. Aeolian fractionation of crystals and glass occurred during transport resulting in an airfall deposit enriched in crystals relative to the source. Mass balance calculation based on crystal/glass fractionation indicates an additional 12 km3 of airfall tephra was deposited outside the observed fall-out envelope as dispersed ash. Discharge of pyroclastic flows into the sea along the west coast of Dominica initiated subaqueous pyroclastic debris flows which descended the steep western submarine flanks of the island. 30 km3 of tephra were deposited by this process on the floor of the Grenada Basin up to 250 km from source. The Roseau event represents the largest explosive eruption in the Lesser Antilles in the last 200,000 years and illustrates the complexity of primary volcanogenic sedimentation associated with a major explosive eruption within an island arc environment. © 1980.

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research