Kilauea Iki lava lake, formed in 1959, is a large pond of picritic basalt (average MgO content = 15.34% by weight), which has cooled and crystallized as a small, self-roofed magma chamber. Repeated drilling of the upper crust of the lake, down to its molten core, and more recent (1981) drilling, through the thermal maximum and part way through the lower crust, have made it possible to monitor the differentiation processes in the lake in detail.

Differentiation processes recognized as active in the lake include rather inefficient settling of the larger (2-10 mm) olivine phenocrysts, formation of segregation veins, and formation of diapir-like vertical olivine-rich bodies, all processes which occur in one or more of the other Kilauean lava lakes as well. In addition, most of the central part of Kilauea Iki has been affected by diapiric melt transfer. In this process, relatively low-density liquid, present at 1145-1160 °C, rose from within the loose crystal mush at the base of the lens of melt and intruded the equivalent thermal horizon at the top of the lens of melt, passing through the hotter but denser melt in the core of the lake without mixing. The source volume from which the low-density liquid was extracted is depleted in TiO2 and other incompatible elements and enriched in FeO and CaO. The upper part of the lake shows the opposite effects. The crystalline assemblage present was olivine + augite + minor plagioclase. The crystallinity of both the source and receiving layers was low enough that no obvious textural imprint was left by the transfer process; the principal evidence for its occurrence is the chemical zonation of the lake seen in core from depths of 13 to 80 m.

Diapiric melt transfer was active from 1960 to 1971 and has affected most of the central part of the lake from 13 m to at least 80 m. The process ran simultaneously with the other three main differentia tion processes but started and stopped independently of the others. Calculations suggest that between 21 and 42 wt % liquid has been extracted from the depleted zone at 56-78 m in the center of the lake, making this a very efficient process of chemical differentiation.

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