- Physical weathering and modification of a rhyolitic hyaloclastite in Iceland
- Bulletin of Volcanology
- Volume | Issue number
- 76 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS)
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Fragmental volcanic glass or 'hyaloclastite' is a common glaciovolcanic eruption product that is formed in large abundance during basaltic, andesitic and rhyolitic sub-glacial eruptions. The physical weathering of rhyolitic hyaloclastites differs notably from basaltic hyaloclastites due to differences in cementation and edifice consolidation. As rhyolitic glasses are also much rarer, comparatively little is known about their physical weathering and fracturing characteristics. In the presented study, we provide a process-oriented analysis of the physical modification of subglacially erupted rhyolitic hyaloclastites from the Blahnukur edifice in Torfajokull (Iceland). Frost weathering experiments were performed to determine how vesicular glass particles fragment to finer particle sizes. The surficial porosity of the glass drives such frost weathering through the process of pore pressurisation and was quantified using high-pressure mercury intrusion. Uniaxial compression experiments were carried out to understand how the glass structure responds to the application of external stress. The observed fracturing in both experimental treatments was found to adhere to fractal statistics, which allowed the compression experiments to be used in conjunction with the frost weathering experiments for inferring the fracturing characteristics of rhyolitic volcanic glasses. Transport processes by wind and gravity were simulated by long-duration abrasion experiments in rock tumblers (through granular avalanching), but these low-energy particle interactions were not found to significantly abrade particles. A notable result from our fragmentation experiments was the production of <10 mu m particles. This size range is considered respirable and illustrates how physical weathering can continuously create potentially harmful ash textures; a process which is often overlooked in health hazard assessments after volcanic eruptions. Fragmentation by post-eruptive weathering can lead to overestimations of the fine ash fraction produced by syneruptive fragmentation and granulometric studies therefore need to be appreciative of the effects of such secondary fracturing processes.
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