High magma decompression rates at the peak of a violent caldera-forming eruption (Lower Pumice 1 eruption, Santorini, Greece)

J M Simmons, R. J. Carey, R. A.F. Cas, Timothy H Druitt

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We use the deposit sequence resulting from the first catastrophic caldera collapse event recorded at Santorini (associated with 184 ka Lower Pumice 1 eruption), to study the shallow conduit dynamics at the peak of caldera collapse. The main phase of the Lower Pumice 1 eruption commenced with the development of a sustained buoyant eruption column, producing a clast-supported framework of rhyodacitic white pumice (LP1-A). The clasts have densities of 310–740 kg m−3, large coalesced vesicles that define unimodal size distributions and moderate to high vesicle number densities (1.2 × 109–1.7 × 109 cm−3). Eruption column collapse, possibly associated with incipient caldera collapse, resulted in the development of pyroclastic flows (LP1-B). The resulting ignimbrite is characterised by rhyodacitic white pumice with a narrow density range (250–620 kg m−3) and moderate to high vesicle number densities (1.3 × 109–2.1 × 109 cm−3), comparable to clasts from LP1-A. An absence of deep, basement-derived lithic clast assemblages, together with the occurrence of large vesicles and relatively high vesicle number densities in pumice from the fallout and pyroclastic flow phases, suggests shallow fragmentation depths, a prolonged period of bubble nucleation and growth, and moderate rates of decompression prior to fragmentation (7–11 MPa s−1). Evacuation of magma during the pyroclastic flow phase led to under-pressurisation of the magma reservoir, the propagation of faults (associated with the main phase of caldera collapse) and the formation of 20 m thick lithic lag breccias (LP1-C). Rhyodacitic pumices from the base of the proximal lithic lag breccias show a broader range of density (330–990 kg m−3), higher vesicle number densities (4.5 × 109–1.1 × 1010 cm−3) and higher calculated magma decompression rates of 15–28 MPa s−1 than pyroclasts from the pre-collapse eruptive phases. In addition, the abundance of lithic clasts, including deeper, basement-derived lithic assemblages, records the opening of new vents and a deepening of the fragmentation surface. These data support numerical simulations which predict rapid increases in magma decompression and mass discharge rates at the onset of caldera collapse.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
Number of pages12
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Caldera collapse
  • Lower Pumice 1
  • Magma decompression
  • Pumice
  • Santorini
  • Vesicle textures

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