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Dynamics of a confined lava flow on Kilauea volcano, Hawaii


This paper presents a new method of analysing lava flow deposits which allows the velocity, discharge rate and rheological properties of channelled moving lavas to be calculated. The theory is applied to a lava flow which was erupted on Kilauea in July 1974. This flow came from a line of fissures on the edge of the caldera and was confined to a pre-existing gully within 50 m of leaving the vent. The lava drained onto the floor of the caldera when the activity stopped, but left wall and floor deposits which showed that the lava “banked up” as it flowed around each of the bends. Field surveys established the radius of curvature of each bend and the associated lava levels, and these data, together with related field and laboratory measurements, are used to study the rheology of the lava. The results show the flow to have been fast moving but still laminar, with a mean velocity of just over 8 m s−1; the lava had a low or negligible yield strength and viscosities in the range 85–140 Pa s. An extension of the basic method is considered, and the possibility of supercritical flow discussed.

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Correspondence to Sally E. Heslop.

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Heslop, S.E., Wilson, L., Pinkerton, H. et al. Dynamics of a confined lava flow on Kilauea volcano, Hawaii. Bull Volcanol 51, 415–432 (1989).

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  • Viscosity
  • Yield Strength
  • Discharge Rate
  • Rheological Property
  • Field Survey