Identifying hazards associated with lava deltas

Bulletin of Volcanology
By:  and 



Lava deltas, formed where lava enters the ocean and builds a shelf of new land extending from the coastline, represent a significant local hazard, especially on populated ocean island volcanoes. Such structures are unstable and prone to collapse—events that are often accompanied by small explosions that can deposit boulders and cobbles hundreds of meters inland. Explosions that coincide with collapses of the East Lae ‘Apuki lava delta at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i, during 2005–2007 followed an evolutionary progression mirroring that of the delta itself. A collapse that occurred when the lava–ocean entry was active was associated with a blast of lithic blocks and dispersal of spatter and fine, glassy tephra. Shortly after delta growth ceased, a collapse exposed hot rock to cold ocean water, resulting in an explosion composed entirely of lithic blocks and lapilli. Further collapse of the delta after several months of inactivity, by which time it had cooled significantly, resulted in no recognizable explosion deposit. Seaward displacement and subsidence of the coastline immediately inland of the delta was measured by both satellite and ground-based sensors and occurred at rates of several centimeters per month even after the lava–ocean entry had ceased. The anomalous deformation ended only after complete collapse of the delta. Monitoring of ground deformation may therefore provide an indication of the potential for delta collapse, while the hazard associated with collapse can be inferred from the level of activity, or the time since the last activity, on the delta.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Identifying hazards associated with lava deltas
Series title Bulletin of Volcanology
DOI 10.1007/s00445-014-0880-0
Volume 76
Issue 12
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Volcano Hazards Program
Description 880; 10 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N