Hidden Outgassing Dynamics at Kilauea (Hawaii) Lava Lake

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Elisabetta Del Bello1, Jacopo Taddeucci1, Tim R Orr2, Bruce F Houghton3, Piergiorgio Scarlato1 and Matthew R Patrick2, (1)National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Rome, Italy, (2)Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, USGS, Hawaii National Park, HI, United States, (3)Univ Hawaii Manoa, SOEST, Honolulu, HI, United States
Lava lakes offer unique opportunities for understanding how magmatic volatiles physically escape from low-viscosity, vesicular magma in open-vent conditions, a process often referred to as magma outgassing. Large-scale lava convection movements and meter-scale bubble explosions, sometimes triggered by rock falls, are acknowledged outgassing processes but may not be the only ones.

In 2013 we used high-frequency (50-500 Hz) thermal and visible imaging to investigate the short-timescale dynamics of the currently active Halema`uma`u lava lake. At that time, besides the dominant release of large bubbles, three types of peculiar outgassing features were observed on the lava lake surface. The first, diffusely observed throughout the observation experiment, consisted of prolonged (up to seconds) gas venting from ‘spot vents’. These vents appeared to open and close without the ejection of material or bubble bursting, and were the site of hot gas emission. Spot vents were located both between and inside cooling plates, and followed the general circulation pattern together with the rest of the lava lake surface. The second feature, observed only once, consisted of the transient wobbling of the whole lava lake surface. This wobbling, with a wavelength of meters to tens of meters, was not related to any external trigger, and dampened soon without apparent consequences on the other lake dynamics. Finally, we observed large (meters) doming areas of the lake surface randomly fluctuating over seconds to minutes. These areas were either stationary or moved independently of the general lake surface circulation, and usually were not affected by other lake surface features (e.g., cooling plate boundaries).

These three features, though trivial for the overall lake outgassing, testify that the lava lake has a complex shallow subsurface architecture, in which permeable channels and gas pockets act independently of the more common bubble bursts.