Lava lake explodes in Hawaii Smoke and lava explode from Kilauea volcano on Hawaiis Big Island (AP photos)
Lava lake explodes in Hawaii
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Molten lava, rocks and gas went flying through the air. This was on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. Everything went in motion after an explosion. It was caused by the partial collapse of a crater wall.

The collapse triggered the small explosion. It spread lava and debris around the rim of Kilauea's Halemaumau Crater. This is according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Janet Babb is a geologist with the USGS. She compared the blast that happened on May 3 to taking a hammer to the top of a bottle of champagne.

"You look at the bottle and you see the liquid. But you don't see the gas," she said. "There's a lot of gas in the lava. And so, when that rock fall hits the lava lake, it's like the moment you knock the top of the champagne bottle off. That gas is released and it hurls molten lava and rock fragments."

Rocks overhang the lava lake. The rocks are altered by gases coming from the lava, Babb said. The rocks eventually give way. They collapse into the lava, causing an explosion.

The material was hurled about 280 feet skyward, she said. No one was injured.

Video of the event shows a wall of rocks sliding into a lava lake. The lake had risen to a record-high level. The slide caused an explosion that sent fist-size chunks of rock onto the Halemaumau visitor overlook. The outlook area has been closed since 2008. That is when the lava lake formed.

There could be fallout of ash and dust from this type of event. But it's very unlikely that anyone could be injured, Babb said. Wind direction dictates the amount of debris that lands in visitor areas. It is relatively common, she said.

The last time molten lava was visible in the crater was in 1982. A fissure erupted. The last time there was a lake similar to this one was in 1974.

The vent within Halemaumau Crater has been rising and falling since it first opened. It reached a record high last week. Even at its previous highest level in October 2012, the lake was too low for people to see. During the day, people could view the gas rising from the lake. At night, people could see the orange glow from the lava.

From the early 1800s up until 1924, there was a continuous lake of lava at Kilauea summit within Halemaumau. At that time, the crater was about half the diameter of what it is now.

In 1924, there was a huge eruption inside the volcano. That event doubled the size of the crater.

Since 1924, lava lakes have been present at different times. In 1967 and 1968, the entire crater was filled with molten lava. You can still see a "bathtub ring" on the walls of the crater. It's where the lava had risen to at that time.

Following the May 3 blast, a magnitude 3.6 earthquake was felt. It happened in the area early the next day. That was according to the Geological Survey.

Critical thinking challenge: What does a bottle of champagne have in common with this volcano?

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COMMENTS (11)
  • John0724-YYCA
    5/07/2015 - 08:28 p.m.

    Well the good thing about this is that no one got hurt when rocks flew everywhere and lava splattered everywhere which will be extremely deadly if people were around the area than they would be seriously injured because of the burning lava and the rocks it'll hit their heads and it will bleed. The volcanoes could be very deadly and the lava lakes that it formed is going to be as deadly as a volcano.

  • KeaganB-1
    5/08/2015 - 12:23 a.m.

    A volcano in Hawaii has a Erupted. This was caused by the partial collapse of a crater Wall. this then caused the explosion. The explosion caused lava around the rim to come out. Rocks that were over the lava lake then fell into the lava causing the explosion. I thought this article was very interesting it would've been very cool to see this live but scary.

  • mariahswmsteam1
    5/08/2015 - 09:05 a.m.

    This is explosion was very insane. I've never heard or seen an explosion that was that big before. I feel bad for the people that were in that explosion. If that was me, I don't know what I would have done.

  • KateM-Kut
    5/11/2015 - 04:08 p.m.

    volcano explodes in hawaii.The collapse triggered the small explosion. The lake had risen to a record-high level.From the early 1800s up until 1924, there was a continuous lake of lava at Kilauea summit within Halemaumau. At that time, the crater was about half the diameter of what it is now.

  • Tiffany0307-yyca
    5/13/2015 - 09:56 p.m.

    Wow, I think that the lava, the smoke, the gas, and the ash are all interesting to learn about, and kind of awesome too! I think it is kind of interesting because you can learn about what the ash is, and when this scene just happened, and what the action has caused to the world and the homes near it. But at the same time, it looks kind of dangerous once you see it in real life in face-to-face, or when your home is in Hawaii and is near the lava lake. But for me, there is one most interesting fact that I learned. There was ash, lava, and gas, but it was interesting to know that no one got injured. It is amazing to know that because every natural disaster I heard about had people dying. Yet this is the first natural disaster which everyone survived and no one got badly hurt. But overall, I have two opinions: one, is that it is interesting and amazing to learn about the explosion, second, it is kind of dangerous too.

  • Rebeccas1-Cla
    5/18/2015 - 04:08 p.m.

    I would not want to be near a volcano when it exploded. That would be a very scary experience. I'm glad I was not there.

  • Akshayu-Cla
    5/18/2015 - 07:28 p.m.

    I feel sad for Hawaii because it is such a beautiful place and some of it is getting destroyed.

  • CassieS-Saw
    5/28/2015 - 11:57 a.m.

    that lava is really big it has lots of smoke to it is

  • NatalyL-Saw
    5/28/2015 - 12:23 p.m.

    That is alot of lava and Hawaii is a really nice place.

  • RolandoSC-Fos
    5/28/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    This article was very interesting it would've been very cool to see this live but scary!

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