How hot is a Hawaiian volcano?

Very hot!! Here are some temperatures recorded at different times and locations:

  • The eruption temperature of Kīlauea lava is about 1,170 degrees Celsius (2,140 degrees Fahrenheit). 
  • The temperature of the lava in the tubes is about 1,250 degrees Celsius (2,200 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • The tube system of episode 53 (Pu'u O'o eruption) carried lava for 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the vent to the sea. The tubes contained the heat so efficiently that the lava was still a sizzling 1,140 degrees Celsius (2,085 degrees Fahrenheit) when it reached the ocean.
  • The color of incandescent rock gives a crude estimate of temperature. Yellow indicates a temperature of about 1,000–1,200 degrees Celsius (1,832–2,192 degrees Fahrenheit). Orange indicates a slightly cooler temperature of about 800–1,000 degrees Celsius (1,472–1,832 degrees Fahrenheit). Red is even cooler, about 600–800 degrees Celsius (1,112–1,472 degrees Fahrenheit).  
  • The outer surface of erupting lava cools incredibly quickly when it is first exposed to air—hundreds of degrees per second.

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How hot is Yellowstone?

Yellowstone is a plateau high in the Rocky Mountains, and is snowbound for over six months per year. The mean annual temperature is 2.2°C (36°F), barely above the freezing point of water. However, Yellowstone is also an active geothermal area with hot springs emerging at ~92°C (~198°F) (the boiling point of water at Yellowstone's mean altitude)...

How big are the Hawaiian volcanoes?

The Hawaiian shield volcanoes are the largest mountains on Earth. Mauna Kea Volcano rises 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level but extends about 19,700 feet (6,000 meters) below sea level to meet the deep ocean floor. Its total height is nearly 33,500 feet (10,211 meters), considerably higher than the height of the tallest mountain on land,...

What was the largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century?

The World's largest eruption of the 20th century occurred in 1912 at Novarupta on the Alaska Peninsula. An estimated 15 cubic kilometers of magma was explosively erupted during 60 hours beginning on June 6th. This volume is equivalent to 230 years of eruption at Kilauea (Hawaii) or about 30 times the volume erupted by Mount St. Helens (Washington...

Where is the largest active volcano in the world?

Rising gradually to more than 4 km above sea level, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on our planet. Its submarine flanks descend to the sea floor an additional 5 km (3 mi), and the sea floor in turn is depressed by Mauna Loa's great mass another 8 km (5 mi). This makes the volcano's summit about 17 km (10.5 mi) above its base!

What is the difference between "magma" and "lava"?

Scientists use the term magma for molten rock that is underground and lava for molten rock that breaks through the Earth's surface.

What kind of school training do you need to become a volcanologist?

There are many paths to becoming a volcanologist. Most include a college or graduate school education in a scientific or technical field, but the range of specialties is very large. Training in geology, geophysics, geochemistry, biology, biochemistry, mathematics, statistics, engineering, atmospheric science, remote sensing, and related fields can...

Can an eruption at one volcano trigger an eruption at another nearby volcano?

There are a few historic examples of simultaneous eruptions from volcanoes or vents located within about 10 km of each other, but it's very difficult to determine whether one eruption caused the other. To the extent that these erupting volcanoes or vents have common or overlapping magma reservoirs and hydrothermal systems, magma rising to erupt...

How Do Volcanoes Erupt?

Deep within the Earth it is so hot that some rocks slowly melt and become a thick flowing substance called magma. Since it is lighter than the solid rock around it, magma rises and collects in magma chambers. Eventually, some of the magma pushes through vents and fissures to the Earth's surface. Magma that has erupted is called lava. Some volcanic...

How many active volcanoes are there on Earth?

There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, aside from the continuous belts of volcanoes on the ocean floor at spreading centers like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge . About 500 of those 1,500 volcanoes have erupted in historical time. Many of those are located along the Pacific Rim in what is known as the " Ring of Fire ." In the United...
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December 31, 2017

Kīlauea Summit Eruption | Lava Returns to Halemaʻumaʻu

In March 2008, a new volcanic vent opened within Halema‘uma‘u, a crater at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park on the Island of Hawaiʻi. This new vent is one of two ongoing eruptions on the volcano. The other is on Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone, where vents have been erupting nearly nonstop since 1983. The duration of these simultaneous summit and

scientist shown taking a lava temp using a heat shield
July 8, 2016

Taking Lava Temps

In this photo, a USGS researcher is taking a temperature measurement on a sluggish channel eddy on Kīlauea Volcano in 1984. The research in Hawaiʻi is just one of many projects overseen by the USGS Volcano Hazards Program, which monitors active and potentially active volcanoes, assesses their hazards, responds to volcanic crises, and

Mauna Ulu lava flow on Hawai‘i Island
June 27, 2016

Mauna Ulu lava flow on Hawai‘i Island

Mauna Ulu began erupting in May 1969 on Kilauea volcano's east rift zone. Within the first 6 months of erupting 12 lava fountains could be seen, some over 1000 ft high in the air! 

December 31, 2018

Hovering Above—UAS’ Role in the 2018 Kīlauea Volcano Eruption Response

The 2018 Kīlauea Volcano eruption marked the first time the federal government used Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to assist in an eruption response in the United States. The UAS were used to survey areas otherwise inaccessible or too hazardous for field crews or manned aircraft, collect multiple types of data, and provide 24/7 real-time situational awareness at Kīlauea

video thumbnail: Lava Lake at Halema'uma'u Crater
September 20, 2010

Lava Lake at Halema'uma'u Crater

The lava lake deep within the vent cavity at Halema'uma'u crater remains active, with ongoing degassing and circulation of lava. This Quicktime movie shows the view in the vent today with a thermal camera, and the video is set at x4 speed to better show the slowly moving lava surface. Today, the lava surface was moving at a rate of about 18 meters per minute (or about 0.7

Image: Lava Exiting Lava Tube
July 26, 2010

Lava Exiting Lava Tube

Lava exited the tube at the sea cliff and poured out onto the growing delta.

Image: Lava flow breakout
April 8, 2010

Lava flow breakout

Lava flow breakout

Image: Lava Flow Entering Water
November 15, 2009

Lava Flow Entering Water

A small open channel of lava was entering the water at one of two entry points at the west Waikupanaha entry area.

video thumbnail: Thermal View of Lava Surface Deep within Halema'uma'u
April 7, 2010

Thermal View of Lava Surface Deep within Halema'uma'u

This movie shows the lava surface deep within the Halema'uma'u vent cavity, captured with a thermal camera that can see through the thick fume. The lava surface is about 70 meters (230 ft) wide, and remains about 200 meters (660 ft) below the cavity rim. The surface is mostly crusted, with a slow migration from north to south. Small spattering sources occasionally break

A narrow stream of yellow-hot lava flows out of a lava tube onto rocks and into the ocean.
November 27, 1989

Lava tube sea entry on Hawai'i Island

Lava flows from a lava tube into the sea near Kupapau Point on Hawai'i Island. From the Kilauea East Rift Zone (ERZ) eruption, November 27, 1989. Episode 48 of the Kupapau Lava Flow.

Lava spatters into the air
November 30, 2000

Lava Spattering

Animated image of lava spattering at  Pu'u 'O 'o crater.