Pyroclastic density currents are ground hugging, hot, gas-particle flows representing the most hazardous events of explosive volcanism. Their impact on structures is a function of dynamic pressure, which expresses the lateral load that such currents exert over buildings. Several critical issues arise in the numerical simulation of such flows, which involve a theologically complex fluid that evolves over a wide range of turbulence scales, and moves over a complex topography. In this paper we consider a numerical technique that aims to cope with the difficulties encountered in the domain discretization when an adequate resolution in the regions of interest is required. Without resorting to time-consuming body-fitted grid generation approaches, we use Cartesian grids locally refined near the ground surface and the volcanic vent in order to reconstruct the steep velocity and particle concentration gradients. The grid generation process is carried out by an efficient and automatic tool, regardless of the geometric complexity. We show how analog experiments can be matched with numerical simulations for capturing the essential physics of the multiphase flow, obtaining calculated values of dynamic pressure in reasonable agreement with the experimental measurements. These outcomes encourage future application of the method for the assessment of the impact of pyroclastic density currents at the natural scale.
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