Bulletin of Volcanology

, 76:876 | Cite as

Pahoehoe to `a`a transition of Hawaiian lavas: an experimental study

  • A. SehlkeEmail author
  • A. Whittington
  • B. Robert
  • A. Harris
  • L. Gurioli
  • E. Médard
Research Article


Basaltic lavas collected at the Muliwai a Pele lava channel, built during 1974 as part of Mauna Ulu’s eruption on Kilauea’s east rift zone, have been studied to investigate the effect of cooling and crystallization on the rheological properties of the lava. We have quantified the viscosity-strain-rate dependence of lava during cooling and crystallization, using concentric cylinder viscometry. We measured the viscosity of the crystal-free liquid between 1600 and 1230 °C, where we observed a deviation from the expected viscosity trend, marking the liquidus. We then made rheology measurements at subliquidus temperatures of 1207, 1203, 1183, 1176, and 1169 °C, varying the applied strain rates at each temperature. While the crystal-free liquid behaved as a Newtonian fluid, crystallization changed the rheological response to pseudo-plastic behavior, even at the lowest crystal volume fraction of 0.025. Pseudo-plastic behavior was observed down to a temperature of 1183 °C, with a crystal fraction of 0.15. Between 1183 and 1176 °C, the two-phase suspension transitioned from a power-law fluid to a Herschel-Bulkley fluid. At temperatures of 1176 and 1169 °C, with crystal fractions of 0.33 and 0.42, respectively, we observed lobate surface textures on the experimental samples, which remained preserved until the end of the experiments. Measurements at these temperatures indicated yield strengths of 82 ± 16 and 238 ± 18 Pa, respectively. The yield strength resulted from the development of an interconnected crystal network of diopside and enstatite by 1176 °C. By 1169 °C, diopside and plagioclase microcrystals had also appeared, and the effective viscosity was between 2000 and 5000 Pa s, depending on the strain rate. Further cooling to 1164 °C resulted in a rapid viscosity increase, to an effective viscosity in excess of 105 Pa s that exceeded the measurement range of our apparatus. The yield strength varies with crystallinity in an exponential fashion, with yield strength in Pa given by σ y = 1.25e12.93Φ c, where Φ c is the crystal volume fraction. The physical effect of crystals on the relative viscosity of magma was assessed by removing the effects of changing residual liquid viscosity, due to changing composition and temperature. To do this, we analyzed, synthesized, and measured the most evolved residual liquid from the subliquidus experiments. The effect of crystals was best captured by the Einstein-Roscoe equation for polydisperse spherical inclusions. We also measured the viscosity of the same crystal-liquid mixtures at low temperatures and strain rates using parallel-plate viscometry. The effect of crystals on magma viscosity was slightly greater at low strain rates, in agreement with theoretical models, although no single model reproduced these results well. In our experiments, the transition from pahoehoe to `a`a occurred between 1200 and 1170 °C, at viscosities between 100 and 1000 Pa s, depending on strain rate.


Viscosity Suspension Rheology Lava flow Yield strength Pahoehoe `a`a 



This work was supported by NSF award EAR-1220051 and NASA grant NNX12AO44G to AW. Travel funding to AS for field work was granted by AGU (via NSF) and the University of Missouri-Graduate Student Association (GSA) and Graduate Professional Council (GPC), as well as the Department of Geological Sciences. We thank Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park for a research permit and Paul Carpenter for assistance with microprobe analyses. BR, AH, LG and EM was financed by the French Government Laboratory of Excellence initiative n°ANR-10-LABX-0006, the Région Auvergne and the European Regional Development Fund. This is Laboratory of Excellence ClerVolc contribution number 124.

Supplementary material

445_2014_876_MOESM1_ESM.docx (79 kb)
ESM 1 Calculated moles of cations to the number of oxides of identified mineral phases of the subliquidus samples (DOCX 79 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Sehlke
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Whittington
    • 1
  • B. Robert
    • 2
  • A. Harris
    • 2
  • L. Gurioli
    • 2
  • E. Médard
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansUniversité Blaise Pascal - CNRS - IRD, OPGCClermont FerrandFrance

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