Open Access

Temporal variations in the constituents of volcanic ash and adherent water-soluble components in the Unzen Fugendake eruption during 1990–1991

  • Kenji Nogami1Email author,
  • Jun-ichi Hirabayashi1,
  • Takeshi Ohba1,
  • Joyo Ossaka2,
  • Masahiro Yamamoto3,
  • Seishi Akagi3,
  • Takejiro Ozawa4 and
  • Minoru Yoshida5
Earth, Planets and Space201453:BF03352400

DOI: 10.1186/BF03352400

Received: 28 August 2000

Accepted: 12 March 2001

Published: 21 June 2014


A change in the chemical compositions of volcanic gases is one of the noticeable phenomena that frequently occurs prior to an eruption. Analysis of the water-soluble components adhering to volcanic ash is available for remote monitoring of volcanic gases from inaccessible volcanoes. It is a secure method for monitoring volcanic activity without using particular devices. Prolonged volcanic eruption at the Unzen Fugendake volcano from 1990 to 1995 started with a phreatic eruption after 198 years of dormancy. Volcanic activity changed from a phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruption to a magmatic eruption with pyroclastic flows in May 1991. The relationship between the chemical composition of volcanic ash and the contents of the water-soluble components adhering to it are discussed in relation to the early stage of the long-term eruption. Volcanic ash ejected by phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruption before dome formation was the product of the alteration in the volcanoclastic materials beneath the surface. The ash had a high content of water-soluble components, which was caused by the absorption of hydrogen chloride and sulfur dioxide gases from magma into wet debris before dome formation. Volcanic ashes which were generated by pyroclastic flows after dome formation were fresh lava fragments. While the contents of water-soluble sulfate adhering to the ash noticeably decreased, those of water-soluble chloride adhering to the ash hardly decreased. The considerable decrease in the contents of water-soluble sulfate was caused by the reaction of volcanic gases with dry lava fragments. Contrary to this, the concentration of hydrogen chloride gas in ash clouds was extremely high, which obstructed the decrease in the water-soluble chloride content in the ash. Volatility of chlorine and sulfur from volcanic rock suggests that the inner temperature of pyroclastic flows was higher than 600700°C at least.