Atmospheric shock waves induced by explosive volcanic eruptions can provide valuable information about eruption characteristics. Shock waves are manifested as pressure-density gradients that can be remotely observed with relatively little noise. Field measurements of expanding shock waves can be directly recorded by pressure transducers or imaged under the proper illumination and atmospheric conditions. In this paper, an open-ended shock tube was used to generate weak shock waves in the laboratory that are representative of explosive volcanic eruptions. They indicate that strong shock wave theory can be used for modeling moderate volcanic eruptions. Based on that finding, we use strong shock theory to estimate the sudden explosive energy released from several explosive eruptions. Our energy calculations are well correlated with total energy estimates derived from plume height or erupted mass.
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