An analogue experimental model of depth fluctuations in lava lakes
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- Witham, F., Woods, A.W. & Gladstone, C. Bull Volcanol (2006) 69: 51. doi:10.1007/s00445-006-0055-8
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Lava lakes, consisting of molten degassing lava in summit craters of active basaltic volcanoes, sometimes exhibit complex cycles of filling and emptying on time-scales of hours to weeks such as recorded at Pu’u’O’o in Hawaii and Oldoinyo Lengai in Tanzania. Here we report on a new series of analogue laboratory experiments of two-phase flow in a reservoir-conduit-lava lake system which spontaneously generates oscillations in the depth of liquid within the lake. During the recharge phase, gas supplied from a subsurface reservoir of degassing magma drives liquid magma up the conduit, causing the lake to fill. As the magmastatic pressure in the lake increases, the upward supply of magma, driven by the gas bubbles, falls. Eventually the upflow becomes unstable, and liquid drains downwards from the lake, driven by the magmastatic pressure of the overlying lake, suppressing the ascent of any more bubbles from the chamber. At a later stage, once the lake has drained sufficiently, the descent speed of liquid through the conduit decreases below the ascent speed of the bubbles, and the recharge cycle resumes. Application of a quantitative model of the experiments to the natural system is broadly consistent with field data.