Patterns and Predictability in the Emplacement of Subaerial Lava Flows and Flow Fields

  • C. R. J. Kilburn


Subaerial lava flows and flow fields show a restricted range of evolutionary sequences. The sequences are related to the traditional classification of pahoehoe, aa and blocky lava, and each is distinguished by a characteristic association of morphological and dynamical features. These features, which include crustal growth and morphology, the formation of lava channels and tubes, the rate and style of flow advance, and the shape and emplacement time of a complete flow field, link processes operating over distances and time intervals that differ from each other by several orders of magnitude. Such links suggest that local observations on newly forming flows (e.g. styles of crustal development) might be sufficient for long-term forecasts of flow growth. The characteristic sequences reflect specific balances between the changing gravitational and pressure forces driving advance and increases in flow resistance due to solidification. The simplest emplacement regime is associated with aa flows, which persistently break their crusts during advance. Constrained by the condition for persistent crustal failure, first-order models provide good descriptions of aa growth trends, as well as a physical basis for forecasting flow behaviour. In particular, they permit estimates of maximum potential flow length and lengthening time from only the mean slope along the expected course of a flow.


Lava Flow Thermal Boundary Layer Arterial Flow Flow Length Lava Tube 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. R. J. Kilburn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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