In-conduit capture of sub-micron volcanic ash particles via turbophoresis and sintering

Farquharson, Jamie I. and Tuffen, Hugh and Wadsworth, Fabian B. and Castro, Jonathan M. and Unwin, Holly and Schipper, C. Ian (2022) In-conduit capture of sub-micron volcanic ash particles via turbophoresis and sintering. Nature Communications, 13 (1). ISSN 2041-1723

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Ash emission in explosive silicic eruptions can have widespread impacts for human health, agriculture, infrastructure, and aviation. Estimates of the total grainsize distribution (TGSD) generated during explosive magma fragmentation underpins eruption models and ash dispersal forecasts. Conventionally, the TGSD constrained via erupted deposits is assumed to match the TGSD produced at explosive fragmentation. Here we present observations from within the vent of a recent rhyolitic eruption (Cordón Caulle, Chile, 2011–2012), demonstrating that fine (<63 μm diameter) and ultra-fine (<2.5 μm diameter) ash particles are captured and sintered to fracture surfaces, and thus sequestered in the shallow subsurface, rather than emitted. We establish a conceptual model—uniquely contextualised through a combination of syn-eruptive observations and detailed post-eruption field investigation—in which turbophoresis (particle migration towards zones of lower turbulence) and rapid sintering create an inverse relationship between particle size and the probability of its subsurface capture. Such size-dependent capture efficiency preferentially removes submicron-diameter ash from the erupted componentry, decoupling the erupted size distribution from magmatic source conditions and potentially playing an important role in modulating eruption dynamics.

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Journal Article
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Nature Communications
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22 Aug 2022 11:20
Last Modified:
23 Aug 2022 02:20