Type of publication
Article in journal
Year of publication
Springer - Bulletin of Volcanology

Tomaso Esposti Ongaro, Jean-Christophe Komorowski, Yoann Legendre and Augusto Neri 


Esposti Ongaro, T., Komorowski, JC., Legendre, Y. et al. Modelling pyroclastic density currents from a subplinian eruption at La Soufrière de Guadeloupe (West Indies, France). Bull Volcanol 82, 76 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-020-01411-6

Short summary
We have used a three-dimensional, non-equilibrium multiphase flow numerical model to simulate subplinian eruption scenarios at La Soufrière de Guadeloupe (Lesser Antilles, France). Initial and boundary conditions for computer simulations were set on the basis of independent estimates of eruption source parameters (i.e. mass eruption rate, volatile content, temperature, grain size distribution) from a field reconstruction of the 1530 CE subplinian eruption. This event is here taken as a reference scenario for hazard assessment at La Soufrière de Guadeloupe. A parametric study on eruption source parameters allowed us to quantify their influence on the simulated dynamics and, in particular, the increase of the percentage of column collapse and pyroclastic density current (PDC) intensity, at constant mass eruption rate, with variable vent diameter. Numerical results enabled us to quantify the effects of the proximal morphology on distributing the collapsing mass around the volcano and into deep and long valleys and to estimate the areas invaded by PDCs, their associated temperature and dynamic pressure. Significant impact (temperature > 300 °C and dynamic pressure > 1 kPa) in the inhabited region around the volcano is expected for fully collapsing conditions and mass eruption rates > 2 × 107 kg/s. We thus combine this spatial distribution of temperature and dynamic pressure with an objective consideration of model-related uncertainty to produce preliminary PDC hazard maps for the reference scenario. In such a representation, we identify three areas of varying degree of susceptibility to invasion by PDCs—very likely to be invaded (and highly impacted), susceptible to invasion (and moderately impacted), and unlikely to be invaded (or marginally impacted). The study also raises some key questions about the use of deterministic scenario simulations for hazard assessment, where probability distributions and uncertainties are difficult to estimate. Use of high-performance computing techniques will in part allow us to overcome such difficulties, but the problem remains open in a scientific context where validation of numerical models is still, necessarily, an incomplete and ongoing process. Nevertheless, our findings provide an important contribution to the quantitative assessment of volcanic hazard and risk at La Soufrière de Guadeloupe particularly in the context of the current unrest of the volcano and the need to prepare for a possible future reawakening of the volcano that could culminate in a magmatic explosive eruption.