, Volume 53, Issue 7, pp 546-558

Structure, and origin by injection of lava under surface crust, of tumuli, “lava rises”, “lava-rise pits”, and “lava-inflation clefts” in Hawaii

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Abstract

Tumuli are positive topographic features that are common on Hawaiian pahoehoe lava flow fields, particularly on shallow slopes, and 75 measured examples are presented here to document the size range. Tumuli form by up-tilting of crustal plates, without any crustal shortening, and are thus distinguished from pressure ridges which are up-buckled by laterally directed pressure. The axial or star-like systems of deep clefts that characterize tumuli are defined here as “lava-inflation clefts”; their tips advanced into red-hot lava and they widened as uplift proceeded and while the lava crust was thickening. Flat-surfaced uplifts, formed like tumuli by injection of lava under a surface crust, were previously called pressure plateaus, but “lava rise” is proposed instead. The pits that abound among lava rises, previously attributed to collapse or subsidence, are generally formed because the lava around them rose, and the name “lava-rise pit” is proposed. Unique examples of tumuli and lava rises, from which lava drained out under a surface crust 1.5 to 2.5 m thick, are described from Kilauea caldera. These examples show that in tumuli and lava rises the crust floats on considerable bodies of fluid lava, and is able to do so because of its higher vesicle content: the fluid lava loses many of its gas bubbles during residence beneath the crust. The bulk densities of samples from tumuli show a general downward increase. The form of the density profile is consistent with the relationship that for any given crustal thickness the density of fluid lava closely matched the average density of that crust, suggesting that the lava was stably density-stratified. It is inferred that stable stratification was regulated by out-flows of the more vesicular lava fractions, loss of bubbles through the lava-inflation clefts, and entry of injected lava at its level of neutral buoyancy. Below the uppermost meter the downward decrease in vesicularity closely conforms with that expected by compression of a uniform mass of gas per unit mass of lava.