When a shield volcano erupts, the eruption type is not a violent pyroclastic flow but rather a slow lava flow. This means that the lava melt flows out in long fissures instead of falling down the sides of the volcano. It is a very fluid flow. It is called a “shield” because the lava flows out down all sides of the volcano and protrudes a sort of shield-like shape. The reason this type of lava flows instead of violent spatters is because the melt consists almost entirely of basalt, which has low viscosity. Viscosity describes the melt’s resistance to flow behavior. Only if water comes into contact with the melt does the lava become violent and explosive.
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