Giordano G and Doronzo DM, 2017. Sedimentation and mobility of PDCs: a reappraisal of ignimbrites’ aspect ratio. Scientific Reports 7, 4444, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-04880-6.
The aspect ratio of ignimbrites is a commonly used parameter that has been related to the energy of the parent pyroclastic density currents (PDCs). However this parameter, calculated as the ratio between the average thickness and the average lateral extent of ignimbrites, does not capture fundamental differences in pyroclastic flow mobility nor relates to lithofacies variations of the final deposits. We herein introduce the “topological aspect ratio” (ARt) as the ratio of the local deposit thickness (Ht) to the distance between the local site and the maximum runout distance (Lt), where Ht is a proxy for the PDC tendency to deposit, and Lt a proxy for the PDC mobility or its tendency to further transport the pyroclastic material. The positive versus negative spatial gradient d(ARt)/dx along flow paths discriminate zones where PDCs are forced (i.e. where they transport the total energy under the action of mass discharge rate) from zones where they are inertial (i.e. where they transport the total energy under the action of viscous or turbulent fluidization). Though simple to apply, the topological aspect ratio and its spatial gradient are powerful descriptors of the interplay between sedimentation and mobility of PDCs, and of the resulting lithofacies variations.