Bubbles Affect Lava Flow

Close-ups of bubbly lava analogues.

During the 2018 eruption at Kilauea, scientists noticed that the lava flowed very differently depending on how bubbly it was. In this experiment, researchers used corn syrup as a lava analogue and studied how bubbly and particle-filled bubbly flows differed from bubble-free ones. They found that bubble-free syrup flowed fastest, while particle-filled bubbly flows were by far the slowest.

The bubbles also affected the structure of the flows. Large bubbles gathered near the surface of the flow’s leading edge, allowing faster flow beneath. And in the particle-filled flow, the corn syrup developed channels that flowed at different speeds. The authors hope that their relatively simple experimental set-up will inspire more research on bubbly lava flows. (Image and research credit: A. Namiki et al.; via AGU Eos; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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