Thermal erosion of felsic ground by the laminar flow of a basaltic lava, with application to the Cave Basalt, Mount St. Helens, Washington



[1] The thermal erosion of cold felsic ground by the steady laminar flow of a hot basaltic lava is examined theoretically and experimentally. Initially, a chill layer is grown and then remelted at the base of the lava flow. A steady thermal erosion velocity is then established, which is limited by the buoyant instability of the melted ground or by the effective freezing temperature of the basaltic lava. When the theoretical analysis is applied to the longest lava tube system of the Cave Basalt on Mount St. Helens, it is found that about 100 days of flow is sufficient to produce the observed ground erosion in Little Red River, Ape and Lake Caves.