Linking the Ukinrek 1977 maar-eruption observations to the tephra deposits: New insights into maar depositional processes

Michael H. Ort, Nathalie S. Lefebvre, Christina A. Neal, Vicki S. McConnell, Kenneth H. Wohletz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The Ukinrek Maars erupted 30 March to 9 April 1977, forming two maars, a line of small pit craters and a tephra blanket extending to ~2 km from the vents. We combine photographic and written observations with stratigraphic analysis to reconstruct the eruption. The eruption began with very low (a few meters high) fountaining from small craters above an inferred east-west-trending dike, creating local scoria/spatter agglomerate ramparts with a sandy matrix. The eruption very quickly (in minutes to hours) centered on the West Maar. The West Maar eruption lasted 1–2 days, starting and ending with phreatomagmatic explosions with weak phreato-Strombolian activity in between. Initial explosions formed a 30-m-wide crater, enlarged by crater-wall collapse, and columns as high as 6500 m. Phreato-Strombolian activity produced ~72% of the erupted volume, including a small spatter cone and a scoria blanket around the vent. A final explosion series emplaced a lithic-rich breccia as ballistic blocks, possibly as the northern half of the final crater collapsed into the southern vent area. The East Maar formed over the last nine days of the eruption and represents ~93% of the total volume (4.6 × 106 m3) of the Ukinrek eruption. Initial explosions were probably shallower than 10–20 m but most of the eruption occurred from explosions at 50–60 m below the pre-eruptive surface, with evidence of explosions to 90 m depth only at the very end of the eruption. The East Maar eruption mostly produced columns of lapilli, ash, and steam and the deposits are mostly fallout. Winds blew fallout mostly to the north for the first 5–6 days and to the south for the last three days of the eruption. Wind-directed pyroclastic density currents collapsed from the column, producing fines-rich layers within the coarser fallout. Sporadic explosions produced weak density currents in the first few days and lithic-and juvenile-block-rich breccias in the last few days of the eruption. We interpret that collapse of the crater walls made a slurry that in part provided the water for phreatomagmatic interaction. Explosions came from depths <90 m below the pre-eruptive surface except for a few explosions at the end of the eruption, with most occurring at <70 m depth. The East Maar crater was open to 40–60 m depth throughout most of the eruption, so the explosions were rarely, if ever, deeper than 30 m below the crater floor. Thus, we infer there is no classic, well-formed diatreme structure below the maar. Collapse of the East Maar crater walls provided a supply of water-saturated sediment for much of the phreatomagmatic activity, which came from two vents that did not migrate much, if at all, during the eruption. The Ukinrek Maars deposits were nearly entirely emplaced by fallout, rather than density currents, from explosions and low columns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-60
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Maar
  • Phreato-Strombolian
  • Ukinrek
  • Wind-directed currents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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