Lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Reaches the Ocean

Caitlin Dempsey


Kīlauea is a cone shield volcano that has been continuously erupting since 1983 on the island of Hawaii. Kīlauea is considered to be the most active volcano in Hawaii and its name means “spewing” or “much spreading” in the Hawaiian language.

The most recent activity began on May 3 with the opening of several lava vents in the lower Puna area following a 5.0 earthquake earlier in the day.  The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has been tracking the progression of volcanic activity and lava flows on Hawaii and photos and videos can be accessed from the archive page for Kīlauea.

This image captured by the USGS-HVO shows the active ocean entry of a branch of lava.  You can see the red hot lava just before it enters the ocean. What’s known as laze is produced as the hot lava hits the ocean waters.  Laze is a toxic combination of hydrochloric acid and glass particles from lava (the “l” in laze) and haze.

Immediately behind the laze plume are a smaller and larger island of land containing unburnt plants. This is known as a kīpuka.  This Hawaiian term describes an island of land surrounded by younger lava flows.  The white smoke immediately behind the kīpuka is a smoke plume while the hazing darker gas toward the upper section of the picture is SO2 gas.

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Aerial view of a channelized lava flow and active ocean entry. Image: USGS-HVO, May 22, 2018.
Aerial view of a channelized lava flow and active ocean entry. Image: USGS-HVO, May 22, 2018.

More Related Kīlauea Volcano Videos

Lava Fountains in Hawaii: USGS video of Fissure 20 and Fissure 22 – Kīlauea Volcano

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Blue Flames From Methane Fires – Kīlauea Volcano

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.