World Teen - Main Article
Signup Teachers & Parents
Water Plus Lava in Volcanic Crater
News Bytes 08/6/2019 3 Comments

For the first time in recorded history, a pond of water has been discovered inside the summit crater of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. What happens when water and hot lava mix? Scientists aren’t exactly certain what comes next. But they do know that when lava interacts with water, the results can be explosive.

Researchers observed a mysterious green patch at the bottom of the volcano’s Halema‘uma‘u crater for a week. They confirmed the presence of water on Thursday, according to officials with the U.S. Geological Survey.

“The question is what does this mean in the evolution of the volcano?” USGS scientist emeritus Don Swanson says.

One possibility is that lava could slowly heat up groundwater and eventually create a new lava lake, Swanson says. Lava could also interact with the water table and create small explosions.

Yet another possibility is that the magma inside might rise rapidly. “That could produce a larger explosion,” says Swanson.

USGS officials stressed that there is currently “no reason to think hazards at the summit have increased or decreased” because of the water.

Kilauea has a history of alternating between long periods of explosive eruptions and times of slower, so-called effusive phases. Explosive periods are exactly what they sound like: centuries of massive explosions that send hot debris racing down hillsides and towering columns of rock and ash high into the atmosphere.

Effusive periods, one of which Kilauea has been in for about 200 years, are marked by slower, steady lava flows that—in comparison—trickle out of the ground. Researchers believe the next explosive period could be preceded by a massive collapse of Kilauea’s caldera (or crater) floor.

An eruption that was ongoing for more than 30 years came to a dramatic end last year when lava exploded from Kilauea’s flank. It covered a huge swath of land, destroying hundreds of homes in one of the largest eruptions in recent history. (See Volcano Forces Hawaiians Out.)

That eruption came with a significant drop of the caldera floor. Halema‘uma‘u crater collapsed nearly 2,000 feet over the course of several months. But Swanson says he expects an even larger collapse to trigger a prolonged explosive period.

Though researchers have never observed water on the caldera floor before, there are Native Hawaiian chants that describe the presence of ponds appearing just before explosive events.

“It’s really not scientific evidence but it nonetheless enhances the interpretation,” Swanson concedes.

(A small pond of green water can be seen at the lowest point of Kilauea volcano’s Halema‘uma‘u Crater in Hawaii. S. Conway/U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory via AP Photos)

Sorry you are not allowed to publish comments. If this is the first time you are seeing this message please log out and back in. If you continue to see this message and believe this to be in error please reach out to member services.
Most recent comments


Wow, I had no idea that lava and water inside of a volcano could exist together. That's pretty creative of God to do that. I also thought the part about the Hawaiians having chants about "the presence of ponds appearing just before explosive events" was pretty interesting.

Janna (Daniel's sister)

I think it would be cool to visit Hawaii, but not live there because I would be afraid that I would die from a volcano eruption. =(

I hope it doesn't explode!

I agree Lena P.
And Daniel G I Agree and 2nd every thing there is VERy expensive! a loaf of bread is like$ 5.00!!

Check out one of the interesting topics below
Explain IT!

Explain-IT trains you to understand the how’s and why’s of man-made inventions and ideas.

Learn More
Pop Smart

Pop! SMART provides tools that equip teenagers with the kinds of insights they need to wisely navigate today’s popular culture in a way that’s fun and engaging.

Learn More
Pie in the Sky

Everyone daydreams, and as it should be. Good dreams aside, our culture is a natural enemy of serenity and hope. God has equipped you for great things.

Learn More
People Mover

True stories are incredibly powerful. They bring meaning to our lives—communicating the truths we can’t afford to live without.

Learn More
Mud Room

Mud Room helps you relate to the news by exploring the details behind the stories in the headlines that relate to earth sciences.

Learn More
Globe Trek

Globe Trek will take you from the living room sofa to the mountains of Uzbekistan and from the screen of their smart phone to a Chilean plantation.

Learn More
Ka Ching!

ka-Ching! takes a look at important principles of money and economics through relatable examples from everyday life.

Learn More
Law 'N Order

Law ‘N Order captures your imagination through civics, focusing on the idea that everyone can make a difference in life.

Learn More

User login