, Volume 74, Issue 9, pp 2051-2066
Date: 18 Sep 2012

Emplacement conditions of the c. 1,600-year bp Collier Cone lava flow, Oregon: a LiDAR investigation

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Abstract

A long-standing question in lava flow studies has been how to infer emplacement conditions from information preserved in solidified flows. From a hazards perspective, volumetric flux (effusion rate) is the parameter of most interest for open-channel lava flows, as the effusion rate is important for estimating the final flow length, the rate of flow advance, and the eruption duration. The relationship between effusion rate, flow length, and flow advance rate is fairly well constrained for basaltic lava flows, where there are abundant recent examples for calibration. Less is known about flows of intermediate compositions (basaltic andesite to andesite), which are less frequent and where field measurements are limited by the large block sizes and the topographic relief of the flows. Here, we demonstrate ways in which high-resolution digital topography obtained using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) systems can provide access to terrains where field measurements are difficult or impossible to collect. We map blocky lava flow units using LiDAR-generated bare earth digital terrain models (DTMs) of the Collier Cone lava flow in the central Oregon Cascades. We also develop methods using geographic information systems to extract and quantify morphologic features such as channel width, flow width, flow thickness, and slope. Morphometric data are then analyzed to estimate both effusion rates and emplacement times for the lava flow field. Our data indicate that most of the flow outline (which comprises the earliest, and most voluminous, flow unit) can be well explained by an average volumetric flux ∼14–18 m3/s; channel data suggest an average flux ∼3 m3/s for a later, channel-filling, flow unit. When combined with estimates of flow volume, these data suggest that the Collier Cone lava flow was most likely emplaced over a time scale of several months. This example illustrates ways in which high-resolution DTMs can be used to extract and analyze morphologic measurements and how these measurements can be analyzed to estimate emplacement conditions for inaccessible, heavily vegetated, or extraterrestrial lava flows.

Editorial responsibility: T. Thordarson