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Predicting Safe Regions Within Lava Flows Over Topography

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pWe present a shallow, isothermal, Newtonian model for the transient interaction of lava flows with topography. Numerical integrations and simple mathematical approximations are deployed to quantify how topography controls lava thicknesses and flow speeds. Considering idealized topographic features, we show that modest depressions thicken and accelerate the flow—even far downstream—whilst mounds have the opposite effect. However, deep ponds of lava form in depressions of sufficient amplitude, which introduces a long timescale for lava to fill the depression and hence the accelerated downstream flow may never be attained. Relatively large mounds completely divert the lava, providing protected lava‐free regions for homes and infrastructure. There can, however, be hazardous, deep, fast flow around the edges of the mound, owing to diversion. Additionally, we show that our model accurately predicts the lava‐free region that has been observed in the eruption 35 kyr ago at Marcath Volcano, Nevada.</jats:p>


Funder: King's College, University of Cambridge; Id:


lava flow over topography, numerical models of flow, lava barriers, safe volcanic regions, lubrication theory, transient viscous flows

Journal Title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

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American Geophysical Union (AGU)