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.

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 17
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.

Attribution: Volcano Hazards
December 8, 2011

PubTalk 12/2011 — Tracking Ongoing Kilauea Eruptions

--fissures...fountains...and flows

by Matthew Patrick, USGS, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory


  • Spectacular Kilauea eruptions have produced a summit lava lake, roiling for several years, and a flank eruption recently sending lava flows downslope to threaten residential areas
  • How do USGS scientists monitor and track
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.

Image: Thermal Image of Lava Reaching Ocean
July 30, 2010

Thermal Image of Lava Reaching Ocean

This composite image merges a thermal image and normal photograph, and shows the active flow front in Kalapana.  Breakouts (shown by white/yellow areas) were present at the base of the pali (uppermost white/yellow areas), in several spots near the County viewing area, and on the fingers of lava feeding the two ocean entries. 

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.