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Towards improved hazard assessments for large effusive eruptions: Lava flow advance during the 2018 Kīlauea Lower East Rift Zone eruption
  • Brett Carr
Brett Carr
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Corresponding Author:bcarr@usgs.gov

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The 2018 eruption of Kīlauea volcano produced the largest and most destructive lava flows in the lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) in the past 200 years. Average effusion rates exceeded 100 m3 s-1 (DRE) for more than two months as lava covered > 30 km2 of land area. The largest and longest-lived lava flow was produced by fissure 8 and had flow advance rates exceeding 100 m hr-1 and a run-out length of 13 km. While residents were able to safely evacuate from this rapidly advancing flow, hundreds of structures were destroyed. We integrate observed eruption parameters from the fissure 8 flow with numerical models for lava flows to investigate how eruption rate, topography, and rheology affect the initial path, advance rate, and extent of a lava flow. Many numerical models have been created to represent the advance and/or extent of lava flows. We apply both 1D and 2D, rules-based and physics-based models to explore the advantages and limitations of these model types. First, we validate the models for fissure 8 flow parameters using existing datasets from field observations and sample analysis. Second, we vary the eruption rate and lava rheology to test the influence of these parameters on the advance rate and flow extent. This analysis demonstrates the level of confidence that can be associated with modeling results when estimating difficult-to-constrain parameters during an eruption. Third, using input digital elevation models (DEM) of different resolutions, we examine the sensitivity of model accuracy to DEM resolution, with a specific focus on the influence on flow advance of smaller-scale topographic features that may not be resolved in coarse-resolution DEMs. Through better understanding of how different parameters control flow emplacement, and how to best apply the models describing that emplacement, we aim to improve the ability to estimate advance rate and flow path during (and prior to) the initial stages of flow emplacement and provide more detailed hazard assessments for future eruptions.