Bulletin of Volcanology

, 81:68 | Cite as

The heating of substrates beneath basaltic lava flows

  • Sophia W. R. TsangEmail author
  • Jan M. Lindsay
  • Giovanni Coco
  • Robert Wysocki
  • Geoffrey A. Lerner
  • Erika Rader
  • Gillian M. Turner
  • Ben Kennedy
Research Article


As populations around volcanoes grow, the potential for society to be impacted by lava flows is increasing. While lava flows are known to ignite, bulldoze and/or bury structures, little is known about potential impacts to buried infrastructure. We measure temperature profiles below molten rock to constrain a heat transfer model. Thermomagnetic and palaeomagnetic measurements on soil samples from beneath a 2014 Hawaiian lava flow are then used to verify the model. Finally, we illustrate the model’s utility in lava flow hazard assessments by modelling a hypothetical lava flow active for 4 weeks in Auckland (New Zealand). The modelling predicts the upper 1.7 m of dry soil would exceed 100 °C after 1 week, and the upper 3.8 m of soil would exceed 100 °C after 4 weeks. Determining the depth profile of substrate heating has important implications for planning and preparedness (e.g. siting buried infrastructure), volcanic impact and risk assessments, and decision-making before and during lava flow crises (e.g. mitigation measures to be employed).


Thermal modelling Lava flow hazard Palaeomagnetism Analogue experiment Pāhoehoe Infrastructure impact 



We are grateful to Melvin and Ann Sugimoto and Wood Valley Coffee Planation for granting us land access to sample beneath the Hawaiian lava flows. We would like to thank Frank Trusdell, Bruce Hayward and Peter Crossley for discussions and showing us field locations. We gratefully acknowledge Ryan McKay’s aid in implementing radiative heat transfer in ANSYS. We also greatly appreciate the thoughtful reviews of an anonymous reviewer and Elise Rumpf, which greatly improved the clarity of this manuscript. We would like to acknowledge Michael James and Andy Harris for their editorial handling. This work was funded by the New Zealand Earthquake Commission and was undertaken as part of the Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland (DEVORA) research programme. BK acknowledges support from “Quantifying exposure to specific and multiple volcanic hazards” programme of the New Zealand Natural Hazards Research Platform (NHRP).

Author contributions

S.W.R.T. & J.M.L. conceived the study. S.W.R.T., R.W. & E.R. performed the molten rock experiments. S.W.R.T., G.A.L. & G.M.T. performed the palaeomagnetic analysis and interpretation. G.C. advised S.W.R.T. on the heat transfer modelling. J.M.L. & B.K. assisted S.W.R.T. in the field. All authors contributed to the preparation and editing of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

445_2019_1320_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (900 kb)
Online Resource 1 Full data tables and graphs. (XLSX 899 kb)
445_2019_1320_MOESM2_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Online Resource 2 Table of molten rock temperatures derived from the thermal camera and the data loggers. (DOCX 12 kb)
445_2019_1320_MOESM3_ESM.mp4 (5.3 mb)
Online Resources 3–11 Videos of molten rock experiments. (MP4 5415 kb)
445_2019_1320_MOESM4_ESM.mp4 (4.8 mb)
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445_2019_1320_MOESM5_ESM.mp4 (2.7 mb)
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445_2019_1320_MOESM6_ESM.mp4 (11.9 mb)
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445_2019_1320_MOESM7_ESM.mp4 (3.9 mb)
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445_2019_1320_MOESM8_ESM.mp4 (7.7 mb)
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445_2019_1320_MOESM9_ESM.mp4 (13.3 mb)
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445_2019_1320_MOESM10_ESM.mp4 (4.1 mb)
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445_2019_1320_MOESM11_ESM.mp4 (2.8 mb)
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445_2019_1320_MOESM12_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Online Resource 12 Maximum temperatures reached at the given depths in the model results and the corresponding experiments. The time (in hours) that the substrate reached the maximum temperature is provided in parentheses. (DOCX 17.5 kb)
445_2019_1320_MOESM13_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Online Resource 13 Summary table of substrate temperature data over time from the Lava Project experiments and the corresponding modelling. The experimental data shown is from the experiment on which the model was based. See Online Resource 1 for extended data. (DOCX 21.1 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Association of Volcanology & Chemistry of the Earth's Interior 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EnvironmentUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of ArtSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  4. 4.Formerly Planetary Systems Branch, NASA Ames Research CenterMountain ViewUSA
  5. 5.School of Chemical and Physical SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  6. 6.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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