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Development of tumuli in the medial portion of the 1983 aa flow-field, Mount Etna, Sicily.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date30/04/2004
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Journal number2-3
Volume132
Number of pages15
Pages173-187
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

A number of tumuli formed on the aa-dominated lava fan complex which developed in the medial zone of the 1983 flow-field of Mount Etna during the later stages of the eruption. This complex flow-field formed on shallow sloping ground below a scarp between 1900 and 1700 m asl. A major tube system fed a branching tube network in the fan complex. Numerous tumuli and break-outs of lava formed in the fan. Three main types of tumulus are identified: (1) Focal tumuli, which are formed from the break-up and uplift of ‘old’, thick lava crust and themselves become sustained sites for the distribution of lava both as flows and within distributary tubes. These focal tumuli are significant centres associated with major tubes. (2) Satellite tumuli, which are typically elongate, whale-back shaped features that branch out from focal tumuli. These satellite tumuli were initially lava flows erupted from a focal tumulus. The crust of the flow slowed or came to a halt and the rigid crust became uplifted and fractured, forming a dome-shaped ridge feature. These satellite tumuli continued to be fed from the focal tumulus and became sites of lava emission with numerous break-outs. (3) Distributary tumuli formed on the fan associated with short-lived break-outs from tubes and are relatively simple structures formed from limited effusion of toey lobes and pahoehoe lava. The major tumuli on the fan complex show distinct dilation fractures. The fracture surfaces provide good exposure of the crust and three distinct zones are recognised – an upper zone showing columnar jointing, a middle zone consisting of planar fracture surfaces and a basal zone with distinctive banded planar fracture surfaces showing evidence of both brittle and ductile formation. Using these data a model is proposed for tumulus growth. Field analysis of the fan complex shows how it was fed by a branching tube system, leading to flow thickening, formation of tumuli and numerous ephemeral boccas.