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Morphology and dynamics of inflated subaqueous basaltic lava flows

Abstract : During eruptions onto low slopes, basaltic Pahoehoe lava can form thin lobes that progressively coalesce and inflate to many times their original thickness, due to a steady injection of magma beneath brittle and viscoelastic layers of cooled lava that develop sufficient strength to retain the flow. Inflated lava flows forming tumuli and pressure ridges have been reported in different kinds of environments, such as at contemporary subaerial Hawaiian-type volcanoes in Hawaii, La Réunion and Iceland, in continental environments (states of Oregon, Idaho, Washington), and in the deep sea at Juan de Fuca Ridge, the Galapagos spreading center, and at the East Pacific Rise (this study). These lava have all undergone inflation processes, yet they display highly contrasting morphologies that correlate with their depositional environment, the most striking difference being the presence of water. Lava that have inflated in subaerial environments display inflation structures with morphologies that significantly differ from subaqueous lava emplaced in the deep sea, lakes, and rivers. Their height is 2-3 times smaller and their length being 10-15 times shorter. Based on heat diffusion equation, we demonstrate that more efficient cooling of a lava flow in water leads to the rapid development of thicker (by 25%) cooled layer at the flow surface, which has greater yield strength to counteract its internal hydrostatic pressure than in subaerial environments, thus limiting lava breakouts to form new lobes, hence promoting inflation. Buoyancy also increases the ability of a lava to inflate by 60%. Together, these differences can account for the observed variations in the thickness and extent of subaerial and subaqueous inflated lava flows.
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Anne Deschamps, Cécile Grigné, Morgane Le Saout, Samuel Adam Soule, Pascal Allemand, et al.. Morphology and dynamics of inflated subaqueous basaltic lava flows. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, AGU and the Geochemical Society, 2014, 15 (6), pp.2128-2150. ⟨10.1002/2014GC005274⟩. ⟨insu-01003996⟩

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