Experiments have been carried out to determine the effects of cooling on the flow of fluids with strongly temperature dependent viscosity. Radial viscous-gravity currents of warm glucose syrup were erupted at constant rate into a flat tank filled with a cold aqueous solution. Cold, viscous fluid accumulates at the leading edge, altering the flow shape and thickness and slowing the spreading. The flows attain constant internal temperature distributions and bulk viscosities. The value of the bulk viscosity depends on the Péclet number, which reflects the advective and diffusive heat transport properties of the flow, the flow skin viscosity, which reflects cooling, and the eruption viscosity. Our results explain why most lava flows have bulk viscosities much higher than the lava eruption viscosity. The results can be applied to understanding dynamic lava features such as flow-front thickening, front avalanches, and welded basal breccias.

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