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The eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.

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Abstract

The stratigraphy of volcanic deposits is described and related to the eyewitness accounts of Pliny and Younger in chronologically reconstructing events of the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius. Initial activity took the form of a small phreatomagmatic explosion that resulted in ashfall on the volcano and to the east, probably early on 24 August. The subsequent Plinian eruption began shortly after noon. It resulted in a fall of white pumice over districts south of the volcano for about 7 hours. Following this, the continuing Plinian eruption tapped magma of more primitive composition. On 25 August the first pyroclastic surge was generated. During the next 7 hours the Plinian eruption was interrupted 6 times by surges and pyroclastic flows. The first surge overwhelmed Herculaneum where it killed all remaining residents. Later surges were of progressively greater extent, with the 4th surge reaching Pompeii at about 7 a.m. on 25 August. Shortly thereafter the 2 largest surges were produced, which affected Stabiae and Misenum. -from Authors
... Plinian eruptions are among the most devastating events that can occur in explosive volcanism (Fisher and Schmincke, 1984;Cas and Wright, 1987;Sparks et al., 1997;Cioni et al., 2015). The most famous and first documented Plinian eruption is the one that occurred on the 79 CE at Vesuvius, which gave the name to this type of activity (Pyle, 2000;Cioni et al., 2015) and whose dedicated studies have given a great contribution to modern volcanology (e.g., Sigurdsson et al., 1985;Macedonio et al., 1988;Barberi et al., 1990). This eruption is classified as VEI (volcanic explosivity index) 6 (Cioni et al., 2003). ...
... The eruptive events occurred on the 79 CE at Vesuvius heavily damaged the Roman towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, Stabiae ( Fig. 1), and a significant part of the perivolcanic area within >10 km (Kent et al., 1981;Sigurdsson et al., 1985;Gurioli et al., 2002Gurioli et al., , 2005aCioni et al., 2004;Zanella et al., 2007;Caricchi et al., 2014). This eruption has become famous since the historical times of Pliny the Younger, when the Latin author observed, and a few decades later described, for the first time the "Plinian" eruption in two letters to Tacitus (Gigante, 1989). ...
... Sheridan et al. (1981) provided complementary information, with the identification of a withdrawal of the 79 CE magma chamber, then a collapse of the sedimentary basement, and the injection of external groundwater from confining aquifer into the chamber as an explanation of an increase in abundance of deep non-juvenile inclusions (metamorphics, skarns) in the upper grey pumice deposits (see Barberi et al., 1989). Sigurdsson et al. (1985) provided a more detailed stratigraphic reconstruction of the eruption sequence, integrating systematic field observations with the chronological accounts of Pliny the Younger. Later, Carey and Sigurdsson (1987) modelled the column height and the magma discharge rate, by using isopleth maps constructed with maximum pumice and lithic dimensions measured at different stratigraphic heights in the pyroclastic fall deposits. ...
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A full review of the 79 CE Plinian eruption of Vesuvius is presented through a multidisciplinary approach, exploiting the integration of historical, stratigraphic, sedimentological, petrological, geophysical, paleoclimatic, and modelling studies dedicated to this famous and devastating natural event. All studies have critically been reviewed and integrated with original data, spanning from proximal to ultradistal findings of the 79 CE eruption products throughout the Mediterranean. The work not only combines different investigation approaches (stratigraphic, petrological, geophysical, modelling), but also follows temporally the 79 CE eruptive and depositional events, from the magma chamber to the most distal tephras. This has allowed us first to compile a full database of all findings of those deposits, then to relate the products (the deposits) to the genetic thermomechanical processes (the eruption), and lastly to better assess both the local and regional impacts of the 79 CE eruption in the environment. This information leads to a number of open issues (e.g., regional environmental impact vs. local pyroclastic current impact) that are worthy of further investigations, although the 79 CE eruption of Vesuvius is one of the best studied eruptions in volcanology. The structure of the work follows three macro-categories, the historical aspects, the products, and the processes of the 79 CE eruption. For each investigation approach (from stratigraphy to modelling), all dedicated studies and original data are discussed. The open issues are then synthesized in the discussion under a global view of Plinian eruptions, from the magma setting to its dispersion as pyroclasts flowing on the surface vs. falling from the volcanic plume. In this way, a lesson from the past, in particular from the well-studied 79 CE eruption of Vesuvius, will be of help for a better synchronization of processes and products in future developments. Lastly, various aspects for volcanic hazard assessment of Plinian eruptions are highlighted from the tephra distribution and modelling points of view, as these large natural phenomena can have a larger impact than previously thought, also at other active volcanoes.
... A similar conclusion was suggested for the large volume Cerro Galan ignimbrite and for the Youngest Toba Tuff (Costa et al., 2014). These mass flow rates values are up to three orders of magnitude larger than those known for Plinian columns derived from point-source vents and for small to intermediate calderaforming ignimbrites, such as the Campo de la Piedra Pomez eruption (Báez et al., 2015;Báez et al., 2020), Novarupta 1912(Fierstein and Hildreth, 1992 and Vesuvius 79 CE (Sigurdsson et al., 1985;Cioni et al., 2008). ...
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The term “ignimbrite” probably encompasses the one of the largest ranges of deposit types on Earth, associated with the partial to total collapse of explosive eruption columns feeding pyroclastic density currents. Surprisingly, there is no quantified classification scheme for ignimbrite types, as there is for fallout deposits, and this is a remarkable deficiency of modern volcanology. This has so far prevented the identification of standardized descriptors for ignimbrites and the improvement of methods for the documentation of their characteristics, such as happened for fallout deposits, building on the classification scheme proposed by Walker in 1973. Despite some earlier attempts, ignimbrite types do not conform to eruption style nomenclature. In this paper, we explore and discuss descriptors for a classification scheme based on the correlation of runout, areal extent, aspect ratio and volume from a compiled database comprising 92 ignimbrites, which then allows current understanding of pyroclastic flow dynamics to be considered. We refer to single ignimbrite outflow units, i.e. emplaced without significant breaks in their sedimentation, in extra-caldera settings and forming individual cooling units, irrespective of internal lithofacies architecture. Our main finding is that ignimbrites show remarkable power-law relationship between dispersal area/equivalent runout and bulk volume. Runout is directly related to increasing mass flux feeding the pyroclastic current. Volume is related to the magnitude of the flow event. We therefore propose that by measuring first order field observables such as bulk volume and dispersal area provides the opportunity to evaluate magnitude and intensity of related pyroclastic currents and, for large eruptions dominated by ignimbrites, of the eruption. Based on the relationships identified we propose that ignimbrites that originated from the collapse of single point-source eruption columns, usually smaller than 1 km³, are named “Vulcanian ignimbrites” and “Plinian ignimbrites” depending on the style of the eruption they are associated with. Larger ignimbrites that originated from caldera-forming eruptions along ring-fault fissure vents should be regarded as related to a separate eruption style - with respect to the common Hawaiian-Plinian trend -, where the effect of increased mass flux due to ring-fissure vents is dominant and controls the dynamics of the resulting collapsing fountains and pyroclastic flows, irrespective of the kind of eruption style that preceded the onset of the caldera collapse. These are named “caldera-forming ignimbrites” and are further subdivided into small, intermediate, large and super, based on their increasing erupted volume.
... Somma (Cioni et al., 1999). Such edifice has been partially dismantled by four large-magnitude eruptions, starting from the Pomici di Base Plinian eruption of~22 ka BP (Bertagnini et al., 1998;Santacroce et al., 2008) up to the world-famous AD 79 Plinian eruption (Sigurdsson et al., 1985). This intense explosive M. Bisson, A. Tadini, R. Gianardi et al. ...
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Pyroclastic density currents are ground hugging gas-particle flows that originate from the collapse of an eruption column or lava dome. They move away from the volcano at high speed, causing devastation. The impact is generally associated with flow dynamic pressure and temperature. Little emphasis has yet been given to flow duration, although it is emerging that the survival of people engulfed in a current strongly depends on the exposure time. The AD 79 event of Somma-Vesuvius is used here to demonstrate the impact of pyroclastic density currents on humans during an historical eruption. At Herculaneum, at the foot of the volcano, the temperature and strength of the flow were so high that survival was impossible. At Pompeii, in the distal area, we use a new model indicating that the current had low strength and low temperature, which is confirmed by the absence of signs of trauma on corpses. Under such conditions, survival should have been possible if the current lasted a few minutes or less. Instead, our calculations demonstrate a flow duration of 17 min, long enough to make lethal the breathing of ash suspended in the current. We conclude that in distal areas where the mechanical and thermal effects of a pyroclastic density currents are diminished, flow duration is the key for survival.
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