Lava lake explodes in Hawaii
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?

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Assigned 30 times

  • havenr-Koc
    5/10/2015 - 08:11 p.m.

    Volcanoes scare me. I would never want to live on an island or anywhere near a volcano because there is never telling when it is going to erupt it kind of just chooses too when it pleases. I'm just glad that no one was hurt when this erupted and that it wasn't a full on volcano explosion.

  • antoniod-Koc
    5/11/2015 - 02:38 a.m.

    I find this very fascinating because i am interested in how the world was created and how environments were formed. Lava when its cooled lets out all that steam is the best thing ever to watch.

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    5/11/2015 - 10:07 a.m.

    Lava has always been cool to see, for me. But what a dangerous element of nature it is, that the fact that it exists constitutes an article in the news. I hope noone gets hurt in a lava accident, that seems painful

  • alysiah-Koc
    5/11/2015 - 10:17 a.m.

    I think it's really cool that after all these years it finally exploded. I think that it's very dangerous too though because they're unpredictable and can explode at any time. Scientists should go to volcanoes and see if they'll erupt any time soon. It will probably save lives.

  • calebo-Man
    5/11/2015 - 03:22 p.m.

    lava is one of the most exciting forms of succession i would love to see molten lava up close and poke at it with a stick..........

  • kenzeys-Man
    5/11/2015 - 03:41 p.m.

    Hawaii is a beautiful I just don't see how people dont live in Hawaii. That volcano must have destroyed the water because there water is super pretty. Hawaiis water is super gorgeous

  • hopeb-Goo
    5/12/2015 - 09:27 a.m.

    The difference of a bottle of champagne has in common with this volcano is that " 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."

  • Joni-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 09:53 a.m.

    I personally love volcanoes and to be certain I do indeed love lava lakes. It awes me to suspend my disbelief. This was my favorite story today.

  • zacharyhuyser.72
    5/14/2015 - 12:48 p.m.

    It would be amazing to see lava up close, it would probably be a bit dangerous though. It's good to hear that no one was at the park when it exploded. I looked on the internet a little and found that deaths and injuries by lava are very rare, but lava is still very dangerous. Lava will destroy everything in its path, good thing it moves so slow or else there would be a lot more victims. Remember Pompeii?

  • carlosv-Che
    5/14/2015 - 01:45 p.m.

    i feel bad for the people that live out there because now there homes and stuff is on fire and the roads are bad and now they are gone have all that ash later on.

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