Relating the physical properties of volcanic rocks to the characteristics of ash generated by experimental abrasion

Hannah M. Buckland*, Julia Eychenne, Alison C. Rust, Katharine V. Cashman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
292 Downloads (Pure)


Interactions between clasts in pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) generate volcanic ash that can be dispersed to the atmosphere in co-PDC plumes, and due to its small size, is far-travelled. We designed a series of experiments to determine the effects of pyroclast vesicularity and crystal content on the efficiency and type of ash generated by abrasion. Two different pyroclastic materials were used: (1) basaltic-andesite pyroclasts from Fuego volcano (Guatemala) with ~ 26–46% vesicularity and high groundmass crystallinity and (2) tephri-phonolite Avellino pumice (Vesuvius, Italy) with ~ 55–75% vesicularity and low groundmass crystallinity.

When milled, both clast types produced bimodal grain size distributions with fine ash modes between 4 and 5φ (32–63 μm). Although the vesicular Avellino pumice typically generated more ash than the denser Fuego pyroclasts, the ash-generating potential of a single pyroclast was independent of density, and instead governed by heterogeneous crystal and vesicle textures. One consequence of these heterogeneities was to cause the vesicular Avellino clasts to split in addition to abrading, which further enhanced abrasion efficiency. The matrix characteristics also affected ash shape and componentry, which will influence the elutriation and transport properties of ash in the atmosphere. The experimental abrasion successfully replicated some of the characteristics of natural co-PDC ash samples, as shown by similarities in the Adherence Factor, which measures the proportion of attached matrix on phenocrysts, of both the experimentally generated ash and
natural co-PDC ash samples. Our results support previous studies, which have shown that abrasion is an effective mechanism for generating fine ash that is similar in size (~ 5φ; 30 μm) to that found in co-PDC deposits. We further show that both the abundance and nature (shape, density, components, size distribution) of those ash particles are strongly controlled by the matrix properties of the abraded pyroclasts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-350
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Early online date21 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Abrasion
  • Crystallinity
  • Milling
  • Shape
  • Vesicularity
  • Volcanic ash


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