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The c.2030 yr BP Plinian eruption of El Misti volcano, Peru: eruption dynamics and hazard implications

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 12:59 authored by Cobenas, G, Thouret, J-C, Bonadonna, C, Boivin, P

‘El Misti’ volcano near the city of Arequipa in south Peru produced a Plinian eruption c.2030 yr BP that resulted in a tephra deposit consisting of three fallout layers, several pyroclastic density current (PDC) deposits, a late stage, small debris-avalanche deposit, and lahar deposits. This VEI 4 Plinian eruption of El Misti has been selected as one of the reference eruptions for the hazard assessment and risk mitigation plan for the city of Arequipa.

The Plinian column of this eruption rose up to 21–24 km and produced a tephra deposit over an area of at least 2580 km2 within the 5 cm-isopach line. The dispersal axis is oriented SW, i.e. towards the area of the basin and city of Arequipa. Later pumice- and lithic-rich PDC deposits were emplaced into radial valleys extending from the volcano up to a distance of at least 13 km. The eruption produced a minimum total bulk volume of 1.2 km3 (0.71 km3 DRE volume) of tephra and PDC deposits. Components of the tephra deposit consist of beige, gray and banded pumices, lithic fragments, a minor amount of cogenetic dacite clasts, and free crystals. The minimum volume of the tephra deposit varies between 0.2 and 0.6 km3 (exponential, power-law integration and inversion of TEPHRA2 analytical model). The tephra deposit is characterized by a bulk density of 1500 kg/m3 which results in a mass of 2.5–9.0 × 1011 kg. The maximum mass discharge rate (MDR) is 1.1 × 108 kg/s based on a plume height of 24 km. The estimated duration of the Plinian eruption ranges between 0.6 and 2.3 h.

Grain size distribution, componentry, and SEM analyses of both the tephra and PDC deposits, combined with the reconstructed stratigraphic sequence of the deposit, suggest that the eruption took place in five stages: (1) generation of a 21–24 km-high eruptive column that deposited the lower tephra layer; (2) collapse of the crater walls and partial obstruction of the vent during a period of decreased intensity, which led to the formation of a thin sand-sized, lithic-rich, middle tephra layer; (3) resurgence of a Plinian eruption column that formed the upper tephra layer; (4) subsequent collapse of the column that produced the PDC deposits; and (5) failure of the hydrothermally altered part of the crater rim towards the S and SE that resulted in a coarse, lithic-rich debris-avalanche deposit. Geochemical and mineralogical data obtained from the banded pumices suggest a mechanical mixing between two magma batches of dacite (~ 70% SiO2) and andesite (61.7–64.1% SiO2) prior to eruption. The abundance of altered lithics in the uppermost tephra layer suggests that the hydrothermal system operating in the summit area of the volcano was partially disrupted and the vent enlarged just before the transition to the collapse of the column.


Publication title

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research








School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier Science Bv

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© 2012 Published by Elsevier B.V.

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