Pyroclast Tracking Velocimetry illuminates bomb ejection and explosion dynamics at Stromboli (Italy) and Yasur (Vanuatu) volcanoes



A new image processing technique—Pyroclast Tracking Velocimetry—was used to analyze a set of 30 high-speed videos of Strombolian explosions from different vents at Stromboli (Italy) and Yasur (Vanuatu) volcanoes. The studied explosions invariably appear to result from the concatenation of up to a hundred individual pyroclast ejection pulses. All these pulses share a common evolution over time, including (1) a non-linear decrease of the pyroclast ejection velocity, (2) an increasing spread of ejection angle, and (3) an increasing size of the ejected pyroclasts. These features reflect the dynamic burst of short-lived gas pockets, in which the rupture area enlarges while pressure differential decreases. We estimated depth of pyroclast release to be approximately 1 and 8 m below the surface at Stromboli and Yasur, respectively. In addition, explosions featuring more frequent pulses also have higher average ejection velocities and larger total masses of pyroclasts. These explosions release a larger overall amount of energy stored in the pressurized gas by a combination of more frequent and stronger ejection pulses. In this context, the associated kinetic energy per explosion, ranging 103–109 J appears to be a good proxy for the explosion magnitude. Differences in the pulse-defining parameters among the different vents suggest that this general process is modulated by geometrical factors in the shallow conduit, as well as magma-specific rheology. Indeed, the more viscous melt of Yasur, compared to Stromboli, is associated with larger vents producing fewer pulses but larger pyroclasts.