Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


KARSON, Jeffrey, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University, 204 Heroy Geology Laboratory, Syracuse, NY 13244-1070 and WYSOCKI, Robert, Art Department, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13210,

Witnessing flowing basaltic lava can be a highly instructive and transformative experience for geoscience students. As part of the Syracuse University Lava Project, a collaboration between the Departments of Earth Sciences and Art, natural-scale lava flows of up to nearly half a ton of molten basalt are poured under controlled experimental conditions to make real lava flows several meters long. A diverse group of investigators, teachers and students view the lava flows and participate in a wide range of experiments. These events bring the spectacle and excitement of flowing lava to a region of the country where active volcanism does not occur and even volcanic rocks are rare. Crushed basaltic material is melted in and poured from a crucible in a gas-fired tilt-furnace. Lava temperatures range from 1300° to 1100°C.

A wide range of behaviors and morphologies develop as a result of ispecific experimental conditions including variations in slope (0-25°), type of surface (dry or wet sand, rough or smooth material, ice, etc.), and effusion rate. Typically multiple flows are made under slightly different conditions during each event to illustrate how different variables affect flow behavior. Features formed on dry sand include: ropey, toey, sheet-like, tube-fed and inflated pahoehoe flows with complex levees, folds and collapse features. Interactions with water, ice or wet sand create frothy, fragmented flows with large bubbles (“limu o’Pele”) created by escaping water vapor. Topics explored with students vary with background but include solid vs liquid states, cooling of materials, effusive vs explosive eruptions, glass vs rock, rheology (viscous to Bingham), crystallization from melts, etc. Perhaps one of the most impressive lessons from these events is the potential to galvanize student engagement and interest with real lava.