A variety of hydrovolcanic explosions may occur as basaltic lava flows into the ocean. Observations and measurements were made during a two-year span of unusually explosive littoral activity as tube-fed pahoehoe from Kilauea Volcano inundated the southeast coastline of the island of Hawai'i. Our observations suggest that explosive interactions require high entrance fluxes (??? 4 m3/s) and are most often initiated by collapse of a developing lava delta. Two types of interactions were observed. "Open mixing" of lava and seawater occurred when delta collapse exposed the mouth of a severed lava tube or incandescent fault scarp to wave action. The ensuing explosions produced unconsolidated deposits of glassy lava fragments or lithic debris. Interactions under "confined mixing" conditions occurred when a lava tube situated at or below sea level fractured. Explosions ruptured the roof of the tube and produced circular mounds of welded spatter. We estimate a water/rock mass ratio of 0.15 for the most common type of littoral explosion and a kinetic energy release of 0.07-1.3 kJ/kg for the range of events witnessed.
Additional publication details
Littoral hydrovolcanic explosions: A case study of lava-seawater interaction at Kilauea Volcano