Active Lava Lake Inside Kilauea Caldera

February 10, 2017

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February 2017 Viewer's Choice

Photographer: Mila Zinkova
Summary Author: Mila Zinkova

The photo above shows an active lava lake on the Big Island of Hawaii. Click on the photo to see a video of the lava activity. This lava lake is actually a pit crater located inside a crater, inside a crater, because it's located inside Halema'uma'u crater, which itself is located inside Kilauea caldera. It's been active since 2008. Before an explosive eruption here in 1924, there was almost always an active lava lake, sometime two, inside Halema'uma'u crater. However, after this eruption these lava lakes appeared sporadically and were short-lived. But in 2008, another fiery explosion created the current lava lake that geologist have named Outlook Vent, and I call "Ahi Nani," which means "Fiery Beauty" in Hawaiian. Ahi Nani is the second biggest lava lake on the Earth. It's currently about 645 ft by 830 ft (197 m by 253 m) in size, and it's more than 328 ft (100 m) deep.

The behavior of lava-lakes, including movement and collision of thin plates of surface crust floating on circulating molten lava, is like a small-scale version of the Earth's global plate tectonics. Foundering of the lake crust is common near the lake's margins. While watching the video notice how some slabs of crust sink back into the lake as more fluid lava upwells around it. The lava lake inside Halema'uma'u crater is the main source of the sulfur emission in Hawaii. Poisonous sulfur gases are harmful to both humans and vegetation, and sometimes prompt evacuation of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and nearby villages.

Another interesting feature of the lava lakes are spatters. Spattering consists of numerous large bubbles that as they burst release gas built up within the lake. The smaller particles of lava ejected by this spattering have been thrown to a height of about 100 - 200 ft (30-61 m). Hawaiian legend states that Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, lives in Kilauea. Pele's hair, thin threads of volcanic glass that are ejected from by the lava lake, are found all over the Big Island. It should be pointed out that Kilauea is the only known volcano that's ever erupted in two locations at the same time; Outlook Vent (Ahi Nani) and the Puʻu ʻŌʻō Vent, which has been pouring lava into the ocean for more than 30 years.

Photo Details: Camera Model: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS; Focal Length: 90.9mm; Aperture: ƒ/5.0; Exposure Time: 0.100 s (1/10); ISO equiv: 400; Software: Adobe Photoshop CS3 Windows.