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 on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano after an explosion was caused by the partial collapse of a crater wall.

The collapse triggered a small explosion, spreading lava and debris around the rim of Kilauea's Halemaumau Crater, the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says.

Janet Babb, a geologist with the USGS, 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 and that gas is released and it hurls molten lava and rock fragments."

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

The material was hurled about 280 feet skyward, she said.

Video of the event shows a wall of rocks sliding into a lava lake that had risen to a record-high level. The slide caused an explosion that sent fist-size chunks of rock onto the closed Halemaumau visitor overlook, according to the Geological Survey. The area has been closed since 2008, when the lava lake formed, and no one was injured.

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 and it is relatively common, she said.

The last time molten lava was visible in the crater was in 1982, when 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, but 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 and 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 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 where the lava had risen to at that time.

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

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

Assigned 25 times


COMMENTS (28)
  • annah-OBr
    5/07/2015 - 02:08 p.m.

    The bottle and the volcano have the same principles. A volcano has gases that you can't see, and a lot of it. Same with the bottle. The gases are what makes a volcano erupt. Janet Babb said that the material was shot up skyward 280 feet! The material meaning loose rocks. I wonder why it is called a lava lake.

  • LukeMM-5
    5/08/2015 - 12:42 a.m.

    This article is about a volcano in Hawaii that recently erupted, the eruption was caused by a crater wall collapsing, scientists Compared it to hitting the top of a bottle of champagne with a hammer

  • ethano-Goo
    5/08/2015 - 08:37 a.m.

    The volcano is like a champagne bottle in many ways. The text states that You look at the bottle and you see the liquid, but you don't see the gas. 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 and that gas is released and it hurls molten lava and rock fragments. The text also states that all the pressure that is built up inside the volcano is similar to the pressure built up inside a champagne bottle. These examples from the text are why the volcano is like a bottle of champagne.

  • nathang-Goo
    5/08/2015 - 08:39 a.m.

    A bottle of champagne has something in common with this volcano. The text states that "its like the moment when you knock the top of the champagne bottle off and that gas is released and it hurls molten lava and rock fragments." The text also states that she compared the blast that happened on May 3 "to taking a hammer to the top of a bottle of champagne." The evidence from the text shows that a volcano is like a unopened bottle of champagne ready to explode at any given moment.

  • hannaht-Goo
    5/08/2015 - 08:41 a.m.

    A bottle of champagne has something in common with this volcano. The text states, ""You look at the bottle and you see the liquid, but you don't see the gas," she said." The text also states, ""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 and that gas is released and it hurls molten lava and rock fragments."" The evidence from the text explains how when you pop open a bottle of champagne it has the same reaction as the volcano when the gas releases and it hits the lava lake.

  • conner.mills50
    5/08/2015 - 01:13 p.m.

    The tourist must have not liked when they had to spend all that money to go to Hawaii just to be evacuated. I have found out that this eruption is the biggest volcanic lake eruption in Hawaii

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    5/08/2015 - 01:29 p.m.

    This is really scary that this could happen. I don't ever really think about this type of destruction happening and how much can be lost from it.

  • Peytonk-OBr
    5/08/2015 - 01:47 p.m.

    A bottle of champagne has a few thing in common with a volcano. Champagne explodes almost everytime you open it, the cap shoots off and bubbles flow out of the top. When the cap shoots off, sometimes you can see the gasses coming out of the top when the bubbles are fllowing out. The gasses are like steam coming off of the volcano, when they explode, they just come out as easily as water flows out of a glass cup. I wonder how long the lava flows out of the volcano, because the bubbles in a champagne bottle only last a couple minutes.

  • Demii-OBr
    5/08/2015 - 01:53 p.m.

    The reason why they are conparring a volcano to a champagne bottle is because when you pull out the cork the liguid come out really fast. I wonder how the lava lake was formed. I would be scared of the lava lake bbecause it cab happen again at any momment. would you be scared to? I can't wait to learn more about lava lake and why it was formed.

  • Logans-OBr
    5/08/2015 - 01:54 p.m.

    Man, I have to tell my uncle and sister about this before the next time they go there. the lava that arrupted there was 1,600F because it was glowing orange. And the only reaseon i never went there was because of the sharks but this, this is a hole nother reason.

    This makes me thing of a movie "Pompeii" that would be scary to run from lava like that and get turned into a black scelatal figure (Ouch). My uncle told me a funny story about the rain there he said it is warm unlike here. I'm glad that no-one got hurt though it's sad to see people turn into that black figure.

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