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  1. Abstract

    Self‐ignition during the explosive eruption of mud volcanoes can create flames that in some cases reach heights that exceed hundreds of meters. To study the controls on electrical discharge in natural mud, we performed laboratory experiments using a shock‐tube apparatus to simulate explosive eruptions of mud. We vary the water content of the mud and proportions of fine particles. We measure electric discharge within a Faraday cage and we use a high‐speed video camera to image the eruption of mud and some of the electric discharge events. We find that (a) decreasing the proportion of fine particles and (b) increasing water content each suppress the number and magnitude of electric discharge events. Experimentally observed mud volcano lightning occurs where particles exit from the vent and within the jet of erupting particles.

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  2. Abstract

    The dynamics of geophysical dilute turbulent gas‐particles mixtures depends to a large extent on particle concentration, which in turn depends predominantly on the particle settling velocity. We experimentally investigate air‐particle mixtures contained in a vertical pipe in which the velocity of an ascending air flux matches the settling velocity of glass particles. To obtain local particle concentrations in these mixtures, we use acoustic probing and air pressure measurements and show that these independent techniques yield similar results for a range of particle sizes and particle concentrations. Moreover, we find that in suspensions of small particles (78 μm) the settling velocity increases with the local particle concentration due to the formation of particle clusters. These clusters settle with a velocity that is four times faster than the terminal settling velocity of single particles, and they double settling speeds of the suspensions. In contrast, in suspensions of larger particles (467 μm) the settling velocity decreases with increasing particle concentration. Although particle clusters are still present in this case, the settling velocity is decreased by 30%, which is captured by a hindered settling model. These results suggest an interplay between hindered settling and cluster‐induced enhanced settling, which in our experiments occur respectively at Stokes number O(100) and O(1). We discuss implications for volcanic plumes and pyroclastic currents. Our study suggests that clustering and related enhanced or hindered particle settling velocities should be considered in models of volcanic phenomena and that drag law corrections are needed for reliable predictions and hazard assessment.

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  3. Abstract

    Over the last decades, remote observation tools and models have been developed to improve the forecasting of ash‐rich volcanic plumes. One challenge in these forecasts is knowing the properties at the vent, including the mass eruption rate and grain size distribution (GSD). Volcanic lightning is a common feature of explosive eruptions with high mass eruption rates of fine particles. The GSD is expected to play a major role in generating lightning in the gas thrust region via triboelectrification. Here, we experimentally investigate the electrical discharges of volcanic ash as a function of varying GSD. We employ two natural materials, a phonolitic pumice and a tholeiitic basalt (TB), and one synthetic material (soda‐lime glass beads [GB]). For each of the three materials, coarse and fine grain size fractions with known GSDs are mixed, and the particle mixture is subjected to rapid decompression. The experiments are observed using a high‐speed camera to track particle‐gas dispersion dynamics during the experiments. A Faraday cage is used to count the number and measure the magnitude of electrical discharge events. Although quite different in chemical composition, TB and GB show similar vent dynamics and lightning properties. The phonolitic pumice displays significantly different ejection dynamics and a significant reduction in lightning generation. We conclude that particle‐gas coupling during an eruption, which in turn depends on the GSD and bulk density, plays a major role in defining the generation of lightning. The presence of fines, a broad GSD, and dense particles all promote lightning.

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