Rapid eruptive transitions from low to high intensity explosions and effusive activity: insights from textural analysis of a small-volume trachytic eruption, Ascension Island, South Atlantic

Bridie V. Davies, Richard J. Brown, Jenni Barclay, Jane H. Scarrow, Richard A. Herd

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Proximal deposits of small-volume trachytic eruptions are an under-studied record of eruption dynamics despite being common across a range of settings. The 59 ± 4 ka Echo Canyon deposits, Ascension Island, resulted from a small-volume explosive-effusive trachytic eruption. Variations in juvenile clast texture reveal changes in ascent dynamics and transitions in eruption style. Five dominant textural types are identified within the pumice lapilli population. Early Strombolian-Vulcanian eruption phases are typified by macro- and micro-vesicular equant clast types. Sheared clasts are most abundant at the eruption peak, transitioning to dense clasts in later phases due to shear-induced coalescence, outgassing and vesicle collapse. Melt densification and outgassing via tuffisite veins increased plume density, contributing to partial column collapse and the explosive-effusive transition. Bulk vesicularity distributions indicate a shift in dominant fragmentation mechanism during the eruption, from early-stage bubble interference and rupture to late-stage transient fragmentation, with a transient peak of Plinian activity. Dome and lava groundmass crystallinities of up to 70% indicate near-complete degassing during effusive phases, followed by shallow over pressurisation and a final less explosive phase. We provide textural evidence for high-intensity explosive phases and rapid transitions in eruptive style during small-volume trachytic eruptions and consider the impact of trachytic melt compositions on underlying dynamics of these short-lived, explosive events. This analysis demonstrates the value of detailed stratigraphy in understanding critical changes in eruption dynamics and the timescales over which they may occur which is of particular value in anticipating future eruptions of this type.
Original languageEnglish
Article number58
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number9
Early online date6 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • Ascent dynamics
  • Juvenile clast texture
  • Pumice
  • Vesicularity

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