Kilauea Lava Tube Skylight
July 17, 2001
The Pu`u `O`o-Kupaianaha eruption of Kilauea, still continuing since it began in 1983, ranks as the most voluminous outpouring of lava on the volcano's east rift zone in the past five centuries. By January 2000, 1.9 km3 of lava had covered 102 km2 and added 205 hectares to Kilauea's southern shore. In the process, lava flows destroyed 181 houses and resurfaced 13 km of highway with as much as 25 m of lava. Lava flows from Pu`u `O`o to the sea, sometimes through lava tubes beneath the surface. When a portion of the ceiling of a lava tube collapses, a "skylight" is formed, giving volcanologists a glimpse into the interior of the lava tube. The walls of the tube are so hot that they are nearly indistinguishable from flowing lava in the bottom of the tube, raching temperatures of nearly 1200 degrees C.