Vesiculation and quenching during surtseyan eruptions at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Volcano, Tonga

M. Colombier, B. Scheu, F. B. Wadsworth, S. Cronin, J. Vasseur, K. J. Dobson, K.-U. Hess, M. Tost, T. I. Yilmaz, C. Cimarelli, M. Brenna, B. Ruthensteiner, D. B. Dingwell

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35 Citations (Scopus)
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Surtseyan eruptions are shallow to emergent subaqueous explosive eruptions that owe much of their characteristic behavior to the interaction of magma with water. The difference in thermal properties between water and air affects the cooling and postfragmentation vesiculation processes in magma erupted into the water column. Here we study the vesiculation and cooling processes during the 2009 and 2014–2015 Surtseyan eruptions of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano by combining 2-D and 3-D vesicle-scale analyses of lapilli and bombs and numerical thermal modeling. Most of the lapilli and bombs show gradual textural variations from rim to core. The vesicle connectivity in the lapilli and bombs increases with vesicularity from fully isolated to completely connected and also increases from rim to core in transitional clasts. We interpret the gradual textural variations and the connectivity-vesicularity relationships as the result of postfragmentation bubble growth and coalescence interrupted at different stages by quenching in water. The measured vesicle size distributions are bimodal with a population of small and large vesicles. We interpret this bimodality as the result of two nucleation events, one prefragmentation with the nucleation and growth of large bubbles and one postfragmentation with nucleation of small vesicles. We link the thermal model with the textural variations in the clasts—showing a dependence on particle size, Leidenfrost effect, and initial melt temperature. In particular, the cooling profiles in the bombs are consistent with the gradual textural variations from rim to core in the clasts, likely caused by variations in time available for vesiculation before quenching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3762-3779
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number5
Early online date15 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2018


  • numerical modelling
  • percolation
  • quenching
  • surtseyan
  • vesiculation


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