Analog experiments of lava flow emplacement

Main Article Content

Einat Lev
Elise Rumpf
Hanna Dietterich


Laboratory experiments that simulate lava flows have been in use by volcanologists for many years. The behavior of flows in the lab, where “eruption” parameters, material properties, and environmental settings are tightly controlled, provides insight into the influence of various factors on flow evolution. A second benefit of laboratory lava flows is to provide a set of observations with which numerical models of flow emplacement can be tested. Models of lava flow emplacement vary in mathematical approach, physical assumptions, and computational cost. Nonetheless, all models require thorough testing and evaluation, and laboratory experiments produce an excellent test for models.

This paper provides a primer on modern analog laboratory lava flow experiments. It reviews scaling con- siderations and provides quantitative information meant to guide future experimentalists in designing their experiments to be relevant to natural processes. Traditional and novel laboratory techniques are described, including a discussion of current limitations. New insights from recent experiments highlight the impact of topographic conditions and highlight the importance of considering bed roughness, major obstacles, and slope breaks. The influence of episodic or non-uniform effusion rate is demonstrated through recent experi- mental works. Lastly, the paper discusses several open questions about lava flow emplacement and the ways in which future improvements in experimental methods, such as the ability to utilize three-phase suspensions and materials with complex rheologies and to image the interior of flows could help answer these.

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How to Cite
Lev, E., Rumpf, E. and Dietterich, H. (2019) “Analog experiments of lava flow emplacement”, Annals of Geophysics, 62(2), p. VO225. doi: 10.4401/ag-7843.
Special Issue: MeMoVolc