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 the small explosion, which 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, 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. 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 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. The 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 in the area early the next day. This 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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Assigned 194 times

  • JamiTCamo
    5/07/2015 - 04:46 p.m.

    I thinks it's really interesting that there is a lava lake. It's fasinating that you could see the gas rise from the lake in the day time, and see it glow at night time. I can't believe that a volcano erupting can cause an earthquake that has a magnitude of 3.6.

  • AlyssaSBlack
    5/07/2015 - 04:49 p.m.

    The Lava lake is very interesting. I would like to know why the crater wall fell it is a very interesting article. I think it is good that they closed down the area around the kava lake for precation.

  • abbehh
    5/07/2015 - 05:19 p.m.

    Honestly, before this article, I hadn't had known there was a thing such as a "lava lake". It's really cool to hear and learn about such things as this. Amazing actually. However, it may appear cool, but there are dangers. Lava is extremely dangerous to the habitat and anything near the flowing pathway. Geologists and Scientists really should get together and try to make something to protect things from lava.

  • Samp-1
    5/07/2015 - 07:18 p.m.

    Wow this is an amazing article, when i used to live in hawaii i never got to see a lava lake but this is cool. I also find it insane that nobody got injured especially because of how high the lava shot up. I am glad that nobody got hurt in this explosion

  • KiraWvA-4
    5/07/2015 - 08:14 p.m.

    In the crater on top of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, there is a lake of lava. This lake reached a record high last week; the last time a lake was this big was 1974, and in the case of the Kilauea crater, it was 1982 when lava was last sighted (a fissure erupted). Rocks whose properties were changed by the lava's gas plummeted into the lake, initiating an explosion that hurled rocks and lava 280 feet into the air. In the early morning after the explosion, a magnitude 3.6 earthquake was reported locally. I thought this was interesting to see how Hawaii's famous volcanoes actually behave, and the different lava formations that can occur.

  • HannahM-3
    5/07/2015 - 08:43 p.m.

    Hawaii is known for its volcanos, but recently one exploded. On May 2, the Kilauea volcano erupted after a small explosion opened up the crater wall. Debris such as rocks and ash went flying up to 280 feet in the air. No one was hurt in this case, but it did cause a 3.6 earthquake early the next day. I love Hawaii and think it is such a cool place to visit, but it is scary thinking about all of the vocanoes. They can explode any minute without warning, but that also makes them very interesting.

    • karymer1-hei
      10/26/2016 - 12:19 p.m.

      Good information but next time try to answer the question.

  • AustinT-2
    5/07/2015 - 09:03 p.m.

    A volcano named Kilauea exploded after a explosen caused by collapse. This explosion caused lava to spread around the volcanos crater. The material was about 280 feet shot skyward. The last time the lava was visible in the crater was 1982. This would be very scary I would cry.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    5/07/2015 - 09:31 p.m.

    I think that it is cool that a lava lake exploded with just a chunk of rocks that just slid down the lave lake and just exploded, I think that the force caused by the chunks of rocks might have caused the lava lake to explode letting rock fragments to go flying around with nobody hurt by the rock fragments. If tourists aren't hurt by the rock fragments, I think that the tourists are faraway from the lava lake where the rock fragments are in the air falling down back to earth.
    CTC: What does a bottle of champagne have in common with this volcano?
    Answer: A bottle of champagne have in common with a volcano because when you open the cap of the champagne bottle, all the gasses go out of the champagne bottle just like the volcano does.

  • JaclynK-4
    5/07/2015 - 09:51 p.m.

    On May 3, 2015 Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted. With lava spewing out, for the first time since 1982. Material exploded 280 feet upward and luckily, no one was injured. Up until 1924, there was a continuous lake of lava at Kilauea summit. After this blast, a 3.6 earthquake was felt in that area early morning the next day. I think this article was interesting because I find volcanoes really interesting and it was good to know that no one was injured.

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