Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 459–474 | Cite as

Morphometric study of pillow-size spectrum among pillow lavas

  • George P L Walker


Measurements of H and V (dimensions in the horizontal and vertical directions of pillows exposed in vertical cross-section) were made on 19 pillow lavas from the Azores, Cyprus, Iceland, New Zealand, Tasmania, the western USA and Wales. The median values of H and V plot on a straight line that defines a spectrum of pillow sizes, having linear dimensions five times greater at one end than at the other, basaltic toward the small-size end and andesitic toward the large-size end. The pillow median size is interpreted to reflect a control exercised by lava viscosity. Pillows erupted on a steep flow-foot slope in lava deltas can, however, have a significantly smaller size than pillows in tabular pillowed flows (inferred to have been erupted on a small depositonal slope), indicating that the slope angle also exercised a control. Pipe vesicles, generally abundant in the tabular pillowed flows and absent from the flow-foot pillows, have potential as a paleoslope indicator. Pillows toward the small-size end of the spectrum are smooth-surfaced and grew mainly by stretching of their skin, whereas disruption of the skin and spreading were important toward the large-size end. Disruption involved increasing skin thicknesses with increasing pillow size, and pillows toward the large-size end are more analogous with toothpaste lava than with pahoehoe and are inferred from their thick multiple selvages to have taken hours to grow. Pseudo-pillow structure is also locally developed. An example of endogenous pillow-lava growth, that formed intrusive pillows between ‘normal’ pillows, is described from Sicily. Isolated pillow-like bodies in certain andesitic breccias described from Iceland were previously interpreted to be pillows but have anomalously small sizes for their compositions; it is now proposed that they may lack an essential attribute of pillows, namely, the development of bulbous forms by the inflation of a chilled skin, and are hence not true pillows. Para-pillow lava is a common lava type in the flow-foot breccias. It forms irregular flow-sheets that are locally less than 5 cm thick, and failed to be inflated to pillows perhaps because of an inadequate lava-supply rate or too high a flow velocity.


Breccia Sedimentology Slope Angle Linear Dimension Essential Attribute 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • George P L Walker
    • 1
  1. 1.Hawaii Institute of GeophysicsHonoluluUSA

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