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 (by hundreds of degrees per second) when it is first exposed to air.

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Lava spatters into the air
November 30, 2000

Lava Spattering

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

Animated image of lava flowing slowly
November 30, 2000

Lava Flowing

Animated image of lava flowing from a volcano taken from a video excerpt from "Molten Paradise: Kilauea Volcano" a collaboration between HDNet television and USGS.

A narrow stream of yellow-hot lava flows out of a lava tube, onto a small ledge, then cascades down to the ocean.
November 27, 1989

Kilauea lava flows from a tube into the sea, November 27, 1989

Lava flows from a lava tube into the sea near Kupapau Point on 11/27/1989. From the Kilauea East Rift Zone (ERZ) eruption, eruption pisode 48, Kupapau lava flow. Hawai'i Island.

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.

Image: Lava Tube Skylight

Lava Tube Skylight

A close-up view of the lava stream as seen through a lava tube skylight near the top of the Pulama pali. The lava is moving from right to left, and skylight opening is about 1 m (3 ft) across.