Widespread transport of pyroclastic density currents from a large silicic tuff ring: the Glaramara tuff, Scafell caldera, English Lake District, UK

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Abstract

The Glaramara tuff presents extensive exposures of the medial and distal deposits of a large tuff ring (original area >800 km2) that grew within an alluvial to lacustrine caldera basin. Detailed analysis and correlation of 21 sections through the tuff show that the eruption involved phreatomagmatic to magmatic explosions resulting from the interaction of dacitic magma and shallow-aquifer water. As the eruption developed to peak intensity, numerous, powerful single-surge pyroclastic density currents reached beyond 8 km from the vent, probably >12 km. The currents were strongly depletive and deposited coarse lapilli (>5 cm in diameter) up to 5 km from source, with only fine ash and accretionary lapilli deposited beyond this. As the eruption intensity waned, currents deposited fine ash and accretionary lapilli across both distal and medial regions. The simple wax–wane cycle of the eruption produced an overall upward coarsening to fining sequence of the vertical lithofacies succession together with a corresponding progradational to retrogradational succession of lithofacies relative to the vent. Various downcurrent facies transitions record transformations of the depositional flow-boundary zones as the depletive currents evolved with distance, in some cases transforming from granular fluid-based to fully dilute currents primarily as a result of loss of granular fluid by deposition. The tuff-ring deposits share several characteristics with (larger) ignimbrite sheets formed during Plinian eruptions and this underscores some overall similarities between pyroclastic density currents that form tuff rings and those that deposit large-volume ignimbrites. Tuff-ring explosive activity with such a wide area of impact is not commonly recognized, but it records the possibility of such currents and this should be factored into hazard assessments.

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