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Laboratory experiments of volcanic ash resuspension by wind

August 27, 2019

Fresh volcanic eruption deposits tend to be loose, bare, and readily resuspended by wind. Major resuspension events in Patagonia, Iceland, and Alaska have lofted ash clouds with potential to impact aircraft, infrastructure, and downwind communities. However, poor constraints on this resuspension process limit our ability to model this phenomenon. Here, we present laboratory experiments measuring threshold shear velocities and emission rates of resuspended ash under different environmental conditions, including relative humidity of 25–75% and simulated rainfall with subsequent drying. Eruption deposits were replicated using ash collected from two major eruptions: the 18 May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, in Alaska's Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Samples were conditioned in a laboratory chamber and prepared with bulk deposit densities of 1,300–1,500 kg/m3. A control sample of dune sand was included for comparison. The deposits were subjected to different wind speeds using a modified PI‐SWERL® instrument. Under a constant relative humidity of 50% and shear velocities 0.4–0.8 m/s, PM10 emission by resuspension ranged from 10 to >100 mg·m−2·s−1. Addition of liquid water equivalent to 5 mm of rainfall had little lasting effect on Mount St. Helens wind erosion potential, while the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes deposits exhibited lower emissions for at least 12 days. The results indicate that particle resuspension due to wind erosion from ash deposits potentially exceeds that of most desert surfaces and approaches some of the highest emissions ever measured.

Publication Year 2019
Title Laboratory experiments of volcanic ash resuspension by wind
DOI 10.1029/2018JD030076
Authors Vicken Etyemezian, Jack Gillies, Larry G. Mastin, Alice Crawford, Robert Hasson, Alexa R. Van Eaton, G. Nikolich
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres
Index ID 70219470
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center