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Sediment Erosion and Delivery from Toutle River Basin After the 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens: A 30-Year Perspective

  • Jon J. Major
  • Adam R. Mosbrucker
  • Kurt R. Spicer
Chapter

Abstract

Exceptional sediment yields persist in Toutle River valley more than 30 years after the major 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Differencing of decadal-scale digital elevation models shows the elevated load comes largely from persistent lateral channel erosion across the debris-avalanche deposit. Since the mid-1980s, rates of channel-bed-elevation change have diminished, and magnitudes of lateral erosion have outpaced those of channel incision. A digital elevation model of difference from 1999 to 2009 shows erosion across the debris-avalanche deposit is more spatially distributed compared to a model from 1987 to 1999, in which erosion was strongly focused along specific reaches of the channel.

Keywords

Mount St. Helens Volcaniclastic sedimentation Sediment transport Sediment yield Geomorphic recovery Erosion Volcanic drainage basin Digital elevation model Sediment hazard mitigation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the US Army Corps of Engineers Portland District Office for generously providing us digital elevation data for 1987, 1999, and 2009. Dennis Saunders and Tami Christianson helped us compile suspended-sediment and cross-section data. Tim Meadows, Jim O’Connor, Charles Crisafulli, and two anonymous reviewers provided comments that improved this chapter.

Glossary

Blast pyroclastic density current

A form of pyroclastic density current initiated by rapid decompression of lava domes or cryptodomes (magma bodies cooled high within a volcanic edifice) owing to sudden collapse. Rapid decompression results in a directed explosion that initially impels the current laterally before it becomes a gravity-driven flow [Sources: a generalized definition based on definitions of PDCs provided in Pierson and Major 2014, Sigurdsson et al. (2015)]. In the case of the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption, failure of the volcano’s north flank unroofed pressurized magma and superheated water. Rapid exsolution of magmatic gases and conversion of superheated water to steam produced a laterally directed blast, which formed a density current that flowed across rugged topography. The current contained fragmented rock debris as well as shattered forest material (Lipman and Mullineaux 1981).

Debris avalanche

A rapid granular flow of an unsaturated or partly saturated mixture of volcanic rock particles (± ice) and water, initiated by the gravitational collapse and disintegration of part of a volcanic edifice. Debris avalanches differ from debris flows in that they are not water saturated. Although debris avalanches commonly occur in association with eruptions, they can also occur during periods when a volcano is dormant. Sources: Pierson and Major (2014), Sigurdsson et al. (2015).

Lahar

An Indonesian term for a rapid granular flow of a fully saturated mixture of volcanic rock particles (± ice), water, and commonly woody debris. A lahar that has ≥50% solids by volume is termed a debris flow; one that has roughly 10–50% solids by volume is termed a hyperconcentrated flow. Flow type can evolve with time and distance along a flow path as sediment is entrained or deposited. Sources: Pierson and Major (2014), Sigurdsson et al. (2015).

Pyroclastic density current (PDC)

Rapid flow of a dry mixture of hot (commonly >700 °C) solid particles, gases, and air, which can range in character from a dense, ground-hugging flow (pyroclastic flow) to a turbulent, low-density cloud of mostly fine ash and superheated air (pyroclastic surge). A single PDC commonly involves both flow types as a result of gravitational segregation. Flows are generally gravity driven but may be accelerated initially by impulsive lateral forces of directed volcanic explosions. Flows typically move at high velocity (up to several hundred km h−1). Source: Pierson and Major (2014).

Pyroclastic flow

See pyroclastic density current (PDC).

Tephrafall

A rain of volcanic particles to the ground following ejection into the atmosphere by an explosive eruption. Tephra is a collective term for particles of any size, shape, or composition ejected in an explosive eruption. Sources: Pierson and Major (2014), Sigurdsson et al. (2015).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon J. Major
    • 1
  • Adam R. Mosbrucker
    • 1
  • Kurt R. Spicer
    • 1
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Cascades Volcano ObservatoryVancouverUSA

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