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Eruption of stagnant lava from an inactive perched lava lake

September 23, 2023

Lava flow hazards are usually thought to end when the erupting vent becomes inactive, but this is not always the case. At Kīlauea in August 2014, a spiny ʻaʻā flow erupted from the levee of a crusted perched lava lake that had been inactive for a month, and the surface of the lava lake subsided as the flow advanced downslope over the following few days. Topography constructed from oblique aerial photographs using structure-from-motion (SfM) software shows that the volume of the flow (∼68,000 m3) closely matches the volume of subsidence of the crusted lava lake (∼64,000 m3). The similarity of these volumes, along with the textural characteristics of the lava, shows that the lava that fed the flow had been stored beneath the surface of the perched lava lake, and that the flow was not generated by reactivation of the vent. This extends the duration of the local lava flow hazard presented by perched lava lakes and similar flow field structures that store lava, such as rootless shields. The flow probably occurred because the density of the lava beneath the crusted surface of the perched lava lake increased through loss of gas bubbles until it was able to penetrate the less-dense levee, which was composed of relatively vesicular overflows. The flow is thus equivalent to the lava seeps described previously at Kīlauea and elsewhere. We present a simple physical model for the pressure change at the base of a densifying body of lava, which we apply to this case study, and which could be applied to similar scenarios elsewhere.

Publication Year 2023
Title Eruption of stagnant lava from an inactive perched lava lake
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2023.107912
Authors T. Orr, Michael H. Zoeller, Edward W. Llewellin, Matthew R. Patrick
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Index ID 70249313
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center