Bulletin of Volcanology

, 81:6 | Cite as

Investigating physical and thermal interactions between lava and trees: the case of Kīlauea’s July 1974 flow

  • Magdalena Oryaëlle ChevrelEmail author
  • Andrew Harris
  • Alexian Ajas
  • Jonas Biren
  • Lucia Gurioli
  • Laura Calabrò
Research Article


To examine whether there was any physical or thermal interaction between trees and lava when a lava flow inundates a forest, we studied the Kīlauea’s July 1974 lava flow. We mapped the location of ∼ 600 lava-trees and the lava type (pāhoehoe versus ‘a‘ā), and sampled an additional ten lava-trees for chemical and textural analysis to infer flow viscosity and dynamics. The emplacement event lasted 3.5 h and markers on the outer surface of the lava-trees allowed us to define initial high effusion rate and velocity (∼ 400 m3/s and 5–10 m/s) that then declined to 9 m3/s and 4 m/s during a waning phase. We find that lava passing through the forest underwent an initial cooling rate of 4 °C/km which increased to 10 °C/km late in the eruption. This is no different to cooling rates recorded at Kīlauea for tree-free cases. There thus appears to be no effect on cooling for this case. The lava-trees did, though, form a network of vertical cylinder obstacles and evidence for local diversion of flow lines are noticed. However, this varies with lava type, as almost no lava-trees form in ‘a‘ā. We find a relation between the percentage of ‘a‘ā and the number of lava-trees per hectare. The pāhoehoe–‘a‘ā transition for this flow occurs at a viscosity of 103 Pa s and this appears to be a threshold below which lava-trees can form so as to behave as a network of obstacles, and above which they cannot.


Lava-tree Lava channel Cooling rate Viscosity Pāhoehoe–‘a‘ā transition 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of Matthew Patrick, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park where work was completed under National park permit HAVO-2016-SCI-0064. The pole technique of LMV (Christophe Constantin, Jean-Luc Devidal, Jean-Marc Henot, Mhammed Benbakkar and Claire Fonquernie) is acknowledged for sample preparation and sample analyses. Fieldwork was performed with the help of Scott Rowland and Alejandra Gomez-Ulla who are greatly acknowledged. Additionally, we thank Taeko Jane Takahashi at the HVO library for helping us track down the internal and newspaper reports for the events of 19 July 1974. Finally, T. Gregg, A. Soule (reviewers) and H. Dietterich (editor) are greatly acknowledged for their thorough reviews and comments, which improved the quality of this work.

Funding information

This research was financed by the Agence National de la Recherche through the project LAVA (Program: DS0902 2016; Project: ANR-16 CE39-0009, This is ANR-LAVA contribution no. 7. Fieldwork was supported by the Laboratory of Excellence ClerVolc program 6, contribution no. 316. MOC acknowledges the Auvergne fellowship for support.

Supplementary material

445_2018_1263_MOESM1_ESM.docx (633 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 633 kb)
445_2018_1263_MOESM2_ESM.docx (32 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 103 kb)
445_2018_1263_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (46 kb)
ESM 3 (XLSX 45 kb)


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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Clermont Auvergne, CNRS, IRD, OPGC, Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansClermont-FerrandFrance

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