Flow and convective cooling in lava tubes
Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
Copyright 1998 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth (1978–2012)
Volume 103, Issue B11, pages 27465–27487, 10 November 1998
How to Cite
1998), Flow and convective cooling in lava tubes, J. Geophys. Res., 103(B11), 27465–27487, doi:10.1029/97JB03108., and (
- Issue published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 27 OCT 1997
- Manuscript Received: 13 MAY 1997
Tube-fed basaltic lava flows with lengths ranging from 10 to 200 km are inferred to exhibit similar amounts of cooling. To explain the wide range of implied cooling rates, we consider forced convection as a dominant cooling process in lava tubes and present solutions that express mean temperature versus distance down the tube as a function of flow rate and flow cross section. Our models treat forced convective thermal losses in steady laminar flow through a lava tube with constant temperature walls and constant material properties. We explore the effects of different wall temperature and heat flux rate boundary conditions for circular tube and parallel plate flows over a range of tube sizes, plate spacings, eruption temperatures, and volume flow rates. Results show that nonlinear cooling rates over distance are characteristic of constant wall temperature for a piecewise parallel plate/circular tube model. This provides the best fit to temperature observations for Hawaiian tubes. Such a model may also provide an explanation for the very low (∼10°C) cooling observed in ∼10 km long Hawaii tube flows and inferred in longer ∼50 to 150 km tube-fed flows in Queensland. The forced convective cooling model may also explain similar flow morphologies for long tube-fed basaltic lava flows in a wide variety of locations, since small variations in eruption temperature or flow rate can accommodate the entire range of flow lengths and cooling rates considered. Our results are consistent with previous suggestions that long basaltic flows may be a reflection of low slopes, a particularly steady moderate eruption rate, and well-insulated flow, rather than of high discharge rates.