Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Earth Sciences


Jay Thomas

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Karson


Basalt, Breakout, Lava, Pahoehoe, Slip, Vapor


Basaltic lava flows are one of the most visible geologic processes on Earth. Gaining a thorough knowledge of basaltic lava flow behavior is imperative to understanding Earth’s formation processes and for the protection of humanity. Studies of basalt flow behavior have traditionally been completed on active natural basalt flows or in the laboratory using analog materials. Studying active lava flows can be difficult due to unpredictable timing, remote locations, and dangerous conditions. However, the advent of meter-scale laboratory generated lava flows allows for safe and detailed study of active basalt flows. By using natural basaltic material at natural eruption temperatures, these experiments also act to bridge the gap between studies of active lavas and laboratory analog flows. This dissertation is a collection of studies performed on meter-scale basalt pāhoehoe flows to aid in the understanding of pāhoehoe flow dynamics. Chapter one focuses on morphologic study and the details of formation of pāhoehoe sheets and breakouts. Chapter two describes newly observed lava behavior on various substrates, some of which contain abundant volatiles. Chapter three investigates chemical absorption of externally sourced volatiles into the lava and their effect on lava chemistry. These experiments provide the first steps toward more detailed study of pāhoehoe flows in the laboratory.


Open Access