The emplacement of pahoehoe toes: Field observations and comparison to laboratory simulations

Bulletin of Volcanology
By:  and 



We observed active pahoehoe lobes erupted on Kilauea during May-June 1996, and found a range of emplacement styles associated with variations in local effusion rate, flow velocity, and strain rate. These emplacement styles were documented and quantified for comparison with earlier laboratory experiments.

At the lowest effusion rates, velocities, and strain rates, smooth-surfaced lobes were emplaced via swelling, where new crust formed along an incandescent lip at the front of the lobe and the rest of the lobe was covered with a dark crust. At higher effusion rates, strain rates and velocities, lobes were emplaced through tearing or cracking. Tearing was characterized by ripping of the ductile crust near the initial breakout point, and most of the lobe surface was incandescent during its emplacement. This mechanism was observed to generate both smooth-surfaced lobes, and, when the lava encountered an obstacle, folded lobes. Cracking lobes were similar to those emplaced via tearing, but involved breaking of a thicker, brittle crust at the initial breakout of the lobe and therefore required somewhat higher flow rates than did tearing. Cracking lobes typically formed ropy folds in the center of the lobe, and smooth margins. At the highest effusion rates, strain rates, and flow velocities, the lava formed open channels with distinct levees.

The final lobe morphologies were compared to results from laboratory simulations, which were designed to infer effusion rate from final flow morphology, to quantitatively test the laboratory results on the scale of individual natural pahoehoe lobes. There is general agreement between results from laboratory simulations and natural lavas on the scale of individual pahoehoe lobes, but there are disparities between laboratory flows and lava flows on the scale of an entire pahoehoe lava flow field.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The emplacement of pahoehoe toes: Field observations and comparison to laboratory simulations
Series title Bulletin of Volcanology
DOI 10.1007/s00445-003-0319-5
Volume 66
Issue 5
Year Published 2004
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 11 p.
First page 381
Last page 391
Country United States
State Hawaii
Other Geospatial Kilauea volcano
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details