Remote Sensing, Morphologic Analysis, and Analogue Modeling of Lava Channel Networks in Hawai`i
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Lava flows are common at volcanoes around the world and on other terrestrial planets, but their behavior is not fully understood. In Hawai`i, advances in remote sensing are offering new insights into lava flow emplacement. In this dissertation, I develop new techniques using satellite-based synthetic aperature radar, aerial photographs, and airborne lidar to produce three-dimensional high-resolution maps of lava flows from data collected before, during, and after emplacement. These new datasets highlight complex lava channel networks within these flows, which are not incorporated into current predictive or probabilistic lava flow models yet may affect flow behavior. I investigate the origin and influence of these channel networks through morphologic analysis of underlying topography, network topology, and flow morphology and volume. Channel network geometries range from distributary systems dominated by flow branching around local obstacles to tributary systems constricted by topography. I find that flow branching occurs where the flow thins over steeper slopes and that the degree of flow branching, network connectivity, and longevity of flow segments all influence the final flow morphology. Furthermore, because channel networks govern the distribution of lava supply within a flow, changes in the channel topology can dramatically alter the effective volumetric flux in any one branch, which affects both flow length and advance rate. Specifically, branching will slow and shorten flows, while merging can accelerate and lengthen them. To test these observations from historic eruptions and morphologic analysis, I use analogue experiments to simulate the interaction of a lava flow with a topographic obstacle and determine the conditions under which the flow branches and the effects of the bifurcation on flow advance rate. These experiments support the earlier results but also demonstrate the importance of flow dynamics and obstacle morphology on governing when flows may overtop obstacles. Consideration of channel networks is thus important for predicting lava flow behavior and mitigating flow hazards with diversion barriers. One video of Kilauea lava flow activity from 2003-2010 accompanies this dissertation as a supplemental file. This dissertation includes both previously published and unpublished co-authored material.