Scientific article
Open access

Modelling Settling-Driven Gravitational Instabilities at the Base of Volcanic Clouds Using the Lattice Boltzmann Method

Published inFrontiers in Earth Science, vol. 9, 713175
Publication date2021-10-21
First online date2021-10-21

Field observations and laboratory experiments have shown that ash sedimentation can be significantly affected by collective settling mechanisms that promote premature ash deposition, with important implications for dispersal and associated impacts. Among these mechanisms, settling-driven gravitational instabilities result from the formation of a gravitationally-unstable particle boundary layer (PBL) that grows between volcanic ash clouds and the underlying atmosphere. The PBL destabilises once it reaches a critical thickness characterised by a dimensionless Grashof number, triggering the formation of rapid, downward-moving ash fingers that remain poorly characterised. We simulate this process by coupling a Lattice Boltzmann model, which solves the Navier-Stokes equations for the fluid phase, with a Weighted Essentially Non Oscillatory (WENO) finite difference scheme which solves the advection-diffusion-settling equation describing particle transport. Since the physical problem is advection dominated, the use of the WENO scheme reduces numerical diffusivity and ensures accurate tracking of the temporal evolution of the interface between the layers. We have validated the new model by showing that the simulated early-time growth rate of the instability is in very good agreement with that predicted by linear stability analysis, whilst the modelled late-stage behaviour also successfully reproduces quantitative results from published laboratory experiments. The results show that the model is capable of reproducing both the growth of the unstable PBL and the non-linear dependence of the fingers' vertical velocity on both the initial particle concentration and the particle diameter. Our validated model is used to expand the parameter space explored experimentally and provides key insights into field studies. Our simulations reveal that the critical Grashof number for the instability is about ten times larger than expected by analogy with thermal convection. Moreover, as in the experiments, we found that instabilities do not develop above a given particle threshold. Finally, we quantify the evolution of the mass of particles deposited at the base of the numerical domain and demonstrate that the accumulation rate increases with time, while it is expected to be constant if particles settle individually. This suggests that real-time measurements of sedimentation rate from volcanic clouds may be able to distinguish finger sedimentation from individual particle settling.

  • Volcanic ash
  • Tephra
  • Ash sedimentation
  • Lattice Boltzmann
  • Volcanic plumes
Citation (ISO format)
LEMUS, Jonathan et al. Modelling Settling-Driven Gravitational Instabilities at the Base of Volcanic Clouds Using the Lattice Boltzmann Method. In: Frontiers in Earth Science, 2021, vol. 9, p. 713175. doi: 10.3389/feart.2021.713175
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal2296-6463

Technical informations

Creation10/31/2021 1:43:00 PM
First validation10/31/2021 1:43:00 PM
Update time03/16/2023 1:39:57 AM
Status update03/16/2023 1:39:57 AM
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