The canonical Strombolian paradigm of a gas slug ascending and bursting in a homogeneous low-viscosity magma cannot explain the complex details in eruptive dynamics recently revealed by field measurements and textural and geochemical analyses. Evidence points to the existence of high-viscosity magma at the top of the conduit of Strombolian-type volcanoes, acting as a plug. Here, new experiments detail the range of flow configurations that develop during the ascent and burst of a slug through rheologically stratified magma within a conduit. End-member scenarios of a tube fully filled with either high- or low-viscosity liquid bracket three main flow configurations: (1) a plug sufficiently large to fully accommodate an ascending gas slug; (2) A plug that can accommodate the intrusion of low-viscosity liquid driven by the gas expansion, but not all the slug volume, so the slug bursts with the nose in the plug whilst the base is still in the low-viscosity liquid; (3) Gas expansion is sufficient to drive the intrusion of low-viscosity liquid through the plug, with the slug bursting in the low-viscosity layer emplaced dynamically above the plug. We show that the same flow configurations are viable at volcanic-scale through a new experimentally-validated 1D model and 3D computational fluid dynamic simulations. Applied to Stromboli, our results demonstrate that the key parameters controlling the transition between each configuration are gas volume, plug thickness and plug viscosity. The flow processes identified include effective dynamic narrowing and widening of the conduit, instabilities within the falling magma film, transient partial and complete blockage of the conduit, and slug disruption. These complexities influence eruption dynamics and vigour, promoting magma mingling and resulting in pulsatory release of gas.
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 435, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2015.12.028