Analogue modelling of pyroclastic density current deposition

Pete Rowley

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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A series of analogue flume experiments are used to investigate initiation, flow and deposition of static piles of polymict materials, the sorting during transport, and the three dimensional geometry of the resulting deposits. Sequential charges are used to investigate the effects and extent of reworking. The particle heterogeneity is designed to simulate typical PDC make-up, with analogues for juvenile pumice and lithic clasts, as well as the fine-grained pumiceous material which makes up the bulk of the flow.

Analogue flume experiments are used to investigate the generation of complex facies variations typical of pyroclastic density current (PDC) deposits. Polymict charges are developed to behave as analogues for the particle size and density contrasts present in PDC (i.e. lithic and juvenile pumice clasts), and investigate the effect of granular sorting during flow on the geometry of deposit architectures. Multiple charges are used to simulate pulses or sequences of separate PDC in order to assess the extent and effects of reworking. 3D visualisation of the resulting deposits reveals stratigraphies analogous to those seen in PDC, including pumice ‘rafting’ or over-passing and inverse grading of pumice, and normal grading of lithics by simple gravitational granular sorting. Reworking between differentially-coloured layers makes several complex shear-derived Kelvin-Helmholtz instability features apparent, from fully developed rotational eddies, to less developed recumbent flame structures. The implications for the formation of these in PDC are assessed, including the potential influences on temperature proxy data, radiogenic dating by included phenocrysts (40Ar/39Ar) or charcoals (14C), calculation of eruptive volumes, sedimentation rates and flow velocity.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Menzies, Martin, Supervisor
  • Waltham, Dave, Supervisor
  • Kokelaar, Peter, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 May 2010
Place of PublicationUniversity of London
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010


  • pyroclastic flow
  • sedimentology
  • analogue modelling
  • volcanology
  • AGU Travel Grant

    Rowley, Pete (Recipient), 2009

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

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