Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Insights on lava-ice/snow interactions from large-scale basaltic melt experiments

Benjamin R. Edwards, Jeffrey Karson, Robert Wysocki, Einat Lev, Ilya Bindeman and Ulrich Kueppers
Insights on lava-ice/snow interactions from large-scale basaltic melt experiments
Geology (Boulder) (June 2013) 41 (8): 851-854


Quantitative measurements of interactions between lava and ice/snow are critical for improving our knowledge of glaciovolcanic hazards and our ability to use glaciovolcanic deposits for paleoclimate reconstructions. However, such measurements are rare because the eruptions tend to be dangerous and not easily accessible. To address these difficulties, we conducted a series of pilot experiments designed to allow close observation, measurements, and textural documentation of interactions between basaltic melt and ice. Here we report the results of the first experiments, which comprised controlled pours of as much as 300 kg of basaltic melt on top of ice. Our experiments provide new insights on (1) estimates for rates of heat transfer through boundary layers and for ice melting; (2) controls on rates of lava advance over ice/snow; (3) formation of lava bubbles (i.e., Limu o Pele) by steam from vaporization of underlying ice or water; and (4) the role of within-ice discontinuities to facilitate lava migration beneath and within ice. The results of our experiments confirm field observations about the rates at which lava can melt snow/ice, the efficacy with which a boundary layer can slow melting rates, and morphologies and textures indicative of direct lava-ice interaction. They also demonstrate that ingestion of external water by lava can create surface bubbles (i.e., Limu) and large gas cavities. We propose that boundary layer steam can slow heat transfer from lava to ice, and present evidence for rapid isotopic exchange between water vapor and melt. We also suggest new criteria for identifying ice-contact features in terrestrial and martian lava flows.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 41
Serial Issue: 8
Title: Insights on lava-ice/snow interactions from large-scale basaltic melt experiments
Affiliation: Dickinson College, Department of Earth Sciences, Carlisle, PA, United States
Pages: 851-854
Published: 20130620
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 17
Accession Number: 2013-054379
Categories: Igneous and metamorphic petrology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: GSA Data Repository item 2013237
Illustration Description: illus.
Secondary Affiliation: Syracuse University, USA, United StatesLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, USA, United StatesUniversity of Oregon, USA, United StatesUniversity of Munich,
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2022, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201333
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal