Basaltic volcanoes erupt in several different regimes which have not been explained. At Kilauea (Hawaii), eruption can take the form of either fire fountaining, where gas-rich jets propel lava clots to great heights in the atmosphere, or quiet effusive outflow of vesicular lava. Another regime is commonly observed at Stromboli, where large gas slugs burst intermittently at the vent. In an attempt to provide a unifying framework for these regimes, we investigate phenomena induced by degassing in a reservoir which empties into a small conduit. Laboratory experiments are done in a cylindrical tank topped by a thin vertical tube. Working liquids are silicone oils and glycerol solutions to investigate a range of viscosity and surface tension. Gas bubbles are generated at the tank bottom with known bubble diameter and total gas flux. The bubbles rise through the tank and accumulate in a foam layer at the roof. Depending on the behaviour of this foam layer, three different regimes can be distinguished: (i) steady horizontal flow of the foam leading to bubbly flow in the conduit; (ii) alternating regimes of foam build-up and collapse leading to the eruption of a single, large gas pocket; (iii) flow of the foam partially coalesced into larger gas pockets leading to intermittent slug flow in the conduit. These regimes have natural counterparts in basaltic volcanoes.
A simple theory is proposed to explain regimes (i) and (ii). The bubbles in contact with the roof deform under the action of buoyancy forces, developing flat contact areas whose size increases as a function of foam thickness. Maximum deformation corresponds to a critical thickness hc = 2σ/ερlgR, where σ is the coefficient of surface tension, ρl the liquid density, g the acceleration due to gravity, R the bubble radius and ε the gas volume fraction in the foam. The foam thickness is determined by a balance between the input of bubbles from below and the output into the conduit, and is proportional to (μl Q/ε2 ρlg)¼, where μl is the liquid viscosity and Q the gas flux. A necessary and sufficient condition for collapse is that it exceeds the critical value hc. In a liquid of given physical properties, this occurs when the gas flux exceeds a critical value which depends on viscosity, surface tension and bubble size. Experimental determinations of the critical gas flux and of the time between two events of foam collapse are in agreement with this simple theory.
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