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Authors: Cioni, R.* 
Bertagnini, A.* 
Andronico, D.* 
Cole, P. D.* 
Mundula, F.* 
Title: The 512 AD eruption of Vesuvius: complex dynamics of a small scale subplinian event
Journal: Bulletin of Volcanology 
Series/Report no.: 7/73(2011)
Publisher: Springer-Verlag, Berlin/Heidelberg
Issue Date: Sep-2011
DOI: 10.1007/s00445-011-0454-3
Keywords: Subplinian
Magma fragmentation
Eruption dynamics
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.04. Geology::04.04.10. Stratigraphy 
04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.05. Volcanic rocks 
Abstract: We describe the products of the hitherto poorly known 512 AD eruption at Vesuvius, Italy. The deposit records a complex sequence of eruptive events, and it has been subdivided into eight main units, composed of stratified scoria lapilli or thin subordinate ash-rich layers. All the units formed by deposition from tephra fallout, pyroclastic density currents of limited extent being restricted to the initial stages of the eruption (U2). The main part of the deposit (U3 and U5) is characterized by a striking grain size alternation of fine to coarse lapilli, similar to that often described for mid-intensity, explosive eruptions. The erupted products have a phonotephritic composition, with progressively less evolved composition from the base to the top of the stratigraphic sequence. Based on different dispersal, sedimentological and textural features of the products, we identify five phases related to different eruptive styles: opening phase (U1, U2), subplinian phase (U3 to U5), pulsatory phreatomagmatic phase (U6), violent strombolian phase (U7) and final ash-dominated phase (U8). A DRE volume of 0.025 km3 has been calculated for the total fallout deposit. Most of the magma was erupted during the subplinian phase; lithic dispersal data indicate peak column heights of between 10 and 15 km, which correspond to a mass discharge rate (MDR) of 5×106 kg s1. The lower intensity, violent strombolian phase coincided with the eruption of the least evolved magma; a peak column height of 69 km, corresponding to an MDR of 1×106 kg s1, is estimated from field data. Phreatomagmatic activity played a minor role in the eruption, only contributing to the ash-rich deposits of U1, U4, U6 and U8. The two most striking features of the 512 AD eruption are the recurrent shifting of the eruption style and the pulsatory nature of the subplinian phase. Basing on a large set of observational data, we propose a model to explain this complex dynamics, also observed in other eruptions of similar scale from Vesuvius and elsewhere. The inbalance between the rates of magma supply and magma eruption may have caused the frequent changes in the eruptive style. Conversely, the high frequency oscillations of magma discharge recorded by the deposits of the subplinian phase were possibly related to cyclic instabilities in the permeability of the low viscosity magma column, which modulated magma fragmentation and discharge.
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