The huge volcanic debris avalanche occurred at 4.5 ka is a major event in the evolution of the Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador. The present volcanic hazard in the Cotopaxi region is related to lahars generated by volcanic eruptions and concurrent ice melting. This paper presents the geological and geotechnical field and laboratory characterization of the 4.5 ka Cotopaxi debris avalanche deposit and of the younger unconsolidated pyroclastic deposits, representing the probable source of future shallow landslides. The debris avalanche formed a deposit with a well-developed hummocky topography, and climbed a difference in height of about 260 m along the slopes of the adjacent Sincholagua volcano. The debris avalanche deposit includes four lithofacies (megablock, block, mixed, and sheared facies) that represent different flow regimes and degrees of substratum involvement. The facies distribution suggests that, in the proximal area, the debris avalanche slid predominantly confined to the valleys along the N and NE flank of the volcanic cone, emplacing a stack of megablocks. When the flow reached the break in slope at the base of the edifice, it became unconfined and spread laterally over most of the area of the Rio Pita valley. A dynamic block fragmentation and dilation occurred during the debris avalanche transport, emplacing the block facies. The incorporation of the older Chalupas Ignimbrite is responsible for the mixed facies and the sheared facies. Geotechnical results include a full-range grain size characterization, which enabled to make broader considerations on possible variability among the sampled facies. Consolidated drained triaxial compression tests, carried out on the fine fraction < 4.76 mm, point out that shear strength for cohesionless sandy materials is only due to effective friction angle, and show a quite homogeneous behaviour over the set of tested samples. The investigated post-4.5 pyroclastic deposits constitute a 5–12 m thick sequence of poorly consolidated materials that are interlayered with lava flows. Their geotechnical analyses have evidenced a strong variability in grain size distribution, reflecting the depositional processes, and a generally high porosity. Consolidated drained triaxial compression tests delineated a similar shear stress-strain behaviour among the different units, where shear strength is only due to friction angle. Failure surfaces are always well developed, indicating that the poorly consolidated pyroclastic cover could undergo failure leading to the formation of a gravity driven instability phenomena, like granular or debris flows, which are mainly controlled by the fine fraction. This work underlies the general necessity for a site-specific, and interdisciplinary approach in the characterization of volcanic successions to provide reliable data for gravitational instability studies.

Geological and geotechnical characterization of the debris avalanche and pyroclastic deposits of Cotopaxi Volcano (Ecuador). A contribute to instability-related hazard studies / L. Vezzoli, T. Apuani, C. Corazzato, A. Uttini. - In: JOURNAL OF VOLCANOLOGY AND GEOTHERMAL RESEARCH. - ISSN 0377-0273. - 332(2017 Jan), pp. 51-70. [10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2017.01.004]

Geological and geotechnical characterization of the debris avalanche and pyroclastic deposits of Cotopaxi Volcano (Ecuador). A contribute to instability-related hazard studies

T. Apuani
Secondo
;
C. Corazzato
;
2017

Abstract

The huge volcanic debris avalanche occurred at 4.5 ka is a major event in the evolution of the Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador. The present volcanic hazard in the Cotopaxi region is related to lahars generated by volcanic eruptions and concurrent ice melting. This paper presents the geological and geotechnical field and laboratory characterization of the 4.5 ka Cotopaxi debris avalanche deposit and of the younger unconsolidated pyroclastic deposits, representing the probable source of future shallow landslides. The debris avalanche formed a deposit with a well-developed hummocky topography, and climbed a difference in height of about 260 m along the slopes of the adjacent Sincholagua volcano. The debris avalanche deposit includes four lithofacies (megablock, block, mixed, and sheared facies) that represent different flow regimes and degrees of substratum involvement. The facies distribution suggests that, in the proximal area, the debris avalanche slid predominantly confined to the valleys along the N and NE flank of the volcanic cone, emplacing a stack of megablocks. When the flow reached the break in slope at the base of the edifice, it became unconfined and spread laterally over most of the area of the Rio Pita valley. A dynamic block fragmentation and dilation occurred during the debris avalanche transport, emplacing the block facies. The incorporation of the older Chalupas Ignimbrite is responsible for the mixed facies and the sheared facies. Geotechnical results include a full-range grain size characterization, which enabled to make broader considerations on possible variability among the sampled facies. Consolidated drained triaxial compression tests, carried out on the fine fraction < 4.76 mm, point out that shear strength for cohesionless sandy materials is only due to effective friction angle, and show a quite homogeneous behaviour over the set of tested samples. The investigated post-4.5 pyroclastic deposits constitute a 5–12 m thick sequence of poorly consolidated materials that are interlayered with lava flows. Their geotechnical analyses have evidenced a strong variability in grain size distribution, reflecting the depositional processes, and a generally high porosity. Consolidated drained triaxial compression tests delineated a similar shear stress-strain behaviour among the different units, where shear strength is only due to friction angle. Failure surfaces are always well developed, indicating that the poorly consolidated pyroclastic cover could undergo failure leading to the formation of a gravity driven instability phenomena, like granular or debris flows, which are mainly controlled by the fine fraction. This work underlies the general necessity for a site-specific, and interdisciplinary approach in the characterization of volcanic successions to provide reliable data for gravitational instability studies.
Cotopaxi; Debris avalanche; Geotechnical characterization; Volcaniclastics grain size distribution; Volcano collapse; Geophysics; Geochemistry and Petrology
Settore GEO/05 - Geologia Applicata
Settore GEO/08 - Geochimica e Vulcanologia
gen-2017
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03770273
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/480552
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