Circulation patterns in active lava lakes

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Taylor C Redmond, Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States and Einat Lev, Columbia University of New York, Palisades, NY, United States
Active lava lakes provide a unique window into magmatic conduit processes. We investigated circulation patterns of 4 active lava lakes: Kilauea’s Halemaumau crater, Mount Erebus, Erta Ale and Nyiragongo, and in an artificial “lava lake” constructed at the Syracuse University Lava Lab. We employed visual and thermal video recordings collected at these volcanoes and use computer vision techniques to extract time-dependent, two-dimensional surface velocity maps. The large amount of data available from Halemaumau enabled us to identify several characteristic circulation patterns. One such pattern is a rapid acceleration followed by rapid deceleration, often to a level lower than the pre-acceleration level, and then a slow recovery. Another pattern is periodic asymmetric peaks of gradual acceleration and rapid deceleration, or vice versa, previously explained by gas pistoning. Using spectral analysis, we find that the dominant period of circulation cycles at approximately 30 minutes, 3 times longer than the dominant period identified previously for Mount Erebus. Measuring a complete surface velocity field allowed us to map and follow locations of divergence and convergence, therefore upwelling and downwelling, thus connecting the surface flow with that at depth. At Nyiragongo, the location of main upwelling shifts gradually, yet is usually at the interior of the lake, for Erebus it is usually along the perimeter yet often there is catastrophic downwelling at the interior; For Halemaumau upwelling/downwelling position is almost always on the perimeter. In addition to velocity fields, we developed an automated tool for counting crustal plates at the surface of the lava lakes, and found a correlation, and a lag time, between changes if circulation vigor and the average size of crustal plates. Circulation in the artificial basaltic lava “lake” was limited by its size and degree of foaming, yet we measured surface velocities and identify patterns. Maximum surface velocity showed symmetrical peaks of acceleration and deceleration. In summary, extended observations at lava lakes reveal patterns of circulations at different time scales, yielding insight into different processes controlling the exchange of gas and fluids between the magma chamber and conduit, and the surface and atmosphere.