Examining rhyolite lava flow dynamics through photo-based 3-D reconstructions of the 2011-2012 lava flow field at Cordón Caulle, Chile.

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jamie Farquharson, EOST École et Observatoire des Sciences de la Terre, Strasbourg Cedex, France, Mike R James, University of Lancaster, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster, United Kingdom and Hugh Tuffen, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, LA1, United Kingdom
The 2011-2012 eruption at Cordón-Caulle, Chile, afforded the opportunity to observe and measure active rhyolitic lava for the first time. In 2012 and 2013, ~2500 photos were acquired on foot, parallel to flow fronts on the north and north-east of the flow field. Image suites were then processed into 3-D point clouds using Structure-from-Motion Multi-view Stereo (SfM-MVS) freeware. Interpolating these clouds into digital elevation models for dates in 2012–13 enabled analysis of the changing flow field dimensions [1], from which velocity, depth and rheological parameters, e.g.viscosity, could be estimated [see Fig. 1].

Viscosities ranged from 7.5 x109 to 1.1 x1011Pa s, allowing for uncertainties in slope, surface displacement and velocity. Temperatures were modeled using a 1D finite difference method; in concert with viscosities of flow units these values compared well with published non-Arrhenian viscosity models. Derived thermodynamic and force ratios confirmed flow characteristics inferred from the image analyses. SfM-MVS represents an effective method of quantifying and displaying variation in the flow field, indicating several parallels between rhyolite emplacement and that of low-silica lavas.

Initially channelised lava spread laterally and stagnated due to topography and the influence of the surface crust. Continued effusion resulted in iterative emplacement of breakout lobes, promoting lateral extension of the flow field. Insulation of the flow core by the viscous crust allowed this process to continue after effusion had ceased, creating features comparable to low-silica lavas, despite high viscosity and low effusion rates. This suggests that compound flow emplacement may be described by universal, cross-compositional models encompassing rheological differences of many orders of magnitude.

Tuffen et al. 2013, Nat. Comms., 4, 2709, doi:10.1038/ncomms3709