Gas pistoning is a type of eruptive behavior described first at Kīlauea volcano and characterized by the (commonly) cyclic rise and fall of the lava surface within a volcanic vent or lava lake. Though recognized for decades, its cause continues to be debated, and determining why and when it occurs has important implications for understanding vesiculation and outgassing processes at basaltic volcanoes. Here, we describe gas piston activity that occurred at the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō cone, in Kīlauea’s east rift zone, during June 2006. Direct, detailed measurements of lava level, made from time-lapse camera images captured at close range, show that the gas pistons during the study period lasted from 2 to 60 min, had volumes ranging from 14 to 104 m3, displayed a slowing rise rate of the lava surface, and had an average gas release duration of 49 s. Our data are inconsistent with gas pistoning models that invoke gas slug rise or a dynamic pressure balance but are compatible with models which appeal to gas accumulation and loss near the top of the lava column, possibly through the generation and collapse of a foam layer.
Additional publication details
Time-lapse camera observations of gas piston activity at Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō, Kīlauea volcano, Hawai‘i