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Formation and failure of volcanic debris dams in the Chakachatna River valley associated with eruptions of the Spurr volcanic complex, Alaska

January 1, 2001

The formation of lahars and a debris avalanche during Holocene eruptions of the Spurr volcanic complex in south-central Alaska have led to the development of volcanic debris dams in the Chakachatna River valley. Debris dams composed of lahar and debris-avalanche deposits formed at least five times in the last 8000-10,000 years and most recently during eruptions of Crater Peak vent in 1953 and 1992. Water impounded by a large debris avalanche of early Holocene (?) age may have destabilized an upstream glacier-dammed lake causing a catastrophic flood on the Chakachatna River. A large alluvial fan just downstream of the debris-avalanche deposit is strewn with boulders and blocks and is probably the deposit generated by this flood. Application of a physically based dam-break model yields estimates of peak discharge (Qp) attained during failure of the debris-avalanche dam in the range 104 < Qp < 106 m3 s-1 for plausible breach erosion rates of 10-100 m h-1. Smaller, short-lived, lahar dams that formed during historical eruptions in 1953, and 1992, impounded smaller lakes in the upper Chakachatna River valley and peak flows attained during failure of these volcanic debris dams were in the range 103 < Qp < 104 m3 s-1 for plausible breach erosion rates. Volcanic debris dams have formed at other volcanoes in the Cook Inlet region, Aleutian arc, and Wrangell Mountains but apparently did not fail rapidly or result in large or catastrophic outflows. Steep valley topography and frequent eruptions at volcanoes in this region make for significant hazards associated with the formation and failure of volcanic debris dams. Published by Elsevier Science B.V.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2001
Title Formation and failure of volcanic debris dams in the Chakachatna River valley associated with eruptions of the Spurr volcanic complex, Alaska
DOI 10.1016/S0169-555X(00)00097-0
Authors C. F. Waythomas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geomorphology
Series Number
Index ID 70023731
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization