Rheological and morphological evolution of basaltic lava flows
Over 500 million people live in proximity of an active volcano globally. Although lava flows rarely endanger human life, they often destroy critical infrastructure. Advancing our understanding of lava flow dynamics is therefore critical to developing accurate hazard assessment, with key socio-economic impacts for many communities. This work focuses on basaltic lava rheology, which exerts a first-order control on flow dynamics and is reflected in lava morphology. In particular, I address the following research questions: (1) How does the rheology of active flows evolve during emplacement; and (2) How can we use flow morphology to infer the rheology of inactive flows? ... At Piton de La Fournaise (La R�union, FR DOM), I addressed the longstanding question of how pre-existing topography controls lava flow system structure in volume-limited flows (Soldati et al., accepted). I concluded that a steep slope results in a single, stable channel, whereas a gentle slope results in an unstable, braided channel. The findings of this study allow us to interpret and explain the observed flow structure on the basis of pre-existing volcano topography, and to forecast future flow structure. This allowed me to determine that rheology neither affects nor is affected by flow system configuration.
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