Leachate Analyses of volcanic ashes from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption

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Abstract

Volcanic processes which lead to eruptions can be investigated by monitoring a variety of parameters, including the composition of ash leachates. Fine-grained tephra erupted from active vents, and transported through volcanic plumes, can adsorb, and therefore rapidly scavenge, volatile elements such as sulphur, halogens, and metal species in the form of soluble salts adhering to ash surfaces. Analysis of such water-soluble surface materials is a suitable complement for the remote sensing of volcanic gases at inaccessible volcanoes. The April 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption has been characterised by several distinct phases, with an initial effusion of alkali basalt on the volcano's northeast flank since March 20th, followed (since April 14th) by a complex summit, sustained, explosive to mixed activity, characterised by trachyandesitic magma The first phase of the summit eruption (14 to 18 April) was initially characterised by interaction between glacial meltwater from the icecap and erupting magma, and by three main pulses during which dark ash plumes were dispersed to the SE and S. Following a decrease in the intensity in explosive activity associated to the emission of a lava flow (from 19 April to 4 May), activity renewed in intensity on 5 May, when an ash-laden plume, up to 10 km in height, was continuously dispersed until May 18. Activity progressively declined and eruption closed on 9 June [1]. Here, we report on the chemical composition of leachates from volcanic ash samples deposited during the Eyjafjallajökull explosive phase (from 14 April to 8 May). Twenty-eight freshly fallen volcanic ash samples were collected at various distances from the eruptive vent, and their leached solutions were analyzed for major and trace elements. We show that ash leachate solutions from Eyjafjallajökull are dominated - among cations - by Na and Ca, while they display nearly equal S:Cl:F abundances (mean S/Cl and S/F molar ratios of 1.04 and 0.76 respectively), as characteristic of divergent-plate and within-plate volcanism. The good correlations between Ca and F (r2=0.8), Ca and SO4 (r2=0.7), and Na and Cl (r2=0.9) in ash leachates suggest that fluorite, anhydrite, and halite were the most likely soluble surface minerals formed in the plume (and therefore leached during our experiments). These correlations in the extracted solutions also indicate that either the sources of cations and anions in ash leachates were the same (e.g. direct condensation of NaCl(g) and CaSO4(g) from the plume) or, more probably, that the highest the condensation of plume acidic compounds (e.g., SO2(g), HCl(g), HF(g)) on ash, the largest the leaching of cations from silicate fragments. Indeed, our data bring evidence for that the extent of gas-ash reaction (likely, a proxy for ash residence time in the plume) was a key casual factor in determining ash leachate composition. Samples from the 4- 8th May eruptive period, showing the most acid pH values (4.5-5.5), consistently have the highest abundances for all elements, and especially Mg, S and F. Large variations in S and halogens proportions are observed in our dataset, with samples from the 4-8th May eruptive period showing the highest S/Cl and lowest Cl/F ratios. To interpret these variations, and particularly to verify whether they reflect changes in plume gas composition, in gas-ash reaction dynamics and rates,2]will require in-depth comparison with direct (FTIR) measurement of the Eyjafjallajökull gas plume[2] . [1] Hoskuldsson, A., et al., 2011. Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 13, EGU2011-14165, 2011; [2] Alla
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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