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Unusual ice diamicts emplaced during the December 15, 1989 eruption of Redoubt volcano, Alaska

January 1, 1994

Ice diamict comprising clasts of glacier ice and subordinate rock debris in a matrix of ice (snow) grains, coarse ash, and frozen pore water was deposited during the eruption of Redoubt Volcano on December 15, 1989. Rounded clasts of glacier ice and snowpack are as large as 2.5 m, clasts of Redoubt andesite and basement crystalline rocks reach 1 m, and tabular clasts of entrained snowpack are as long as 10 m.

Ice diamict was deposited on both the north and south volcano flanks. On Redoubt's north flank along the east side of Drift piedmont glacier and outwash valley, ice diamict accumulated as at least 3 units, each 1–5 m thick. Two ice-diamict layers underlie a pumice-lithic fall tephra that accumulated on December 15 from 10:15 to 11:45 AST. A third ice diamict overlies the pumiceous tephra. Some of the ice diamicts have a basal ‘ice-sandstone’ layer. The north side icy flows reached as far as 14 km laterally over an altitude drop of 2.3 km and covered an area of about 5.7 km2. On Crescent Glacier on the south volcano flank, a composite ice diamict is locally as thick as 20 m. It travelled 4.3 km over an altitude drop of 1.7 km, covering about 1 km2. The much higher mobility of the northside flows was influenced by their much higher water contents than the southside flow(s).

Erupting hot juvenile andesite triggered and turbulently mixed with snow avalanches at snow-covered glacier heads. These flows rapidly entrained more snow, firn, and ice blocks from the crevassed glacier. On the north flank, a trailing watery phase of each ice-diamict flow swept over and terraced the new icy deposits. The last (and perhaps each) flood reworked valley-floor snowpack and swept 35 km downvalley to the sea. Ice diamict did not form during eruptions after December 15 despite intervening snowfalls. These later pyroclastic flows swept mainly over glacier ice rather than snowpack and generated laharic floods rather than snowflows.

Similar flows of mixed ice grains and pyroclastic debris resulted from the November 13, 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz volcano and from eruptions of snowclad Mount St. Helens in 1982–1984. Such deposits at snowclad volcanoes are initially broad and geomorphically distinct, but they soon become extensively reworked and hard to recognize in the geologic record.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1994
Title Unusual ice diamicts emplaced during the December 15, 1989 eruption of Redoubt volcano, Alaska
DOI 10.1016/0377-0273(94)90045-0
Authors R. B. Waitt, C. A. Gardner, T. C. Pierson, J. J. Major, C.A. Neal
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Index ID 70017631
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Cascades Volcano Observatory