Lava sampling: Why do we do it?

Hot lava samples provide important information about what's going on in a volcano's magma chambers.

We know from laboratory experiments that the more magnesium there is in magma, the hotter it is. Chemical analysis, therefore, provides the means not only to determine the crystallization history of lava but also to establish the temperature at which it was erupted.

For example, Kilauea's 1997 lavas are chemically different from lavas erupted from 1985 to 1997. Chemical analyses show that magma was supplied by two distinct magma bodies.

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How hot is a Hawaiian volcano?

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

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This Quicktime video shows lava sample collection from the perspect...
September 28, 2015

Lava sample collection from the perspective of an Geologist

This Quicktime video shows lava sample collection from the perspective of an HVO geologist.

A USGS geologist collects a molten lava sample during a December 2015 lava flow from Puʻu ʻŌʻō.
April 27, 2016

A USGS geologist collects a molten lava sample during a December 2015 lava flow from Puʻu ʻŌʻō.

A USGS geologist collects a molten lava sample during a December 2015 lava flow from Puʻu ʻŌʻō. As the lava cools on the surface, its viscosity increases and the flow slows down. Credit: USGS.

An HVO geologist collects a sample of lava, quenching it in a bucke...
July 24, 2015

An Geologist collects a sample of lava, quenching it in a bucket of...

An HVO geologist collects a sample of lava, quenching it in a bucket of water. Chemical analysis of the lava provides insight into changes in the magma plumbing system.

An HVO geologist collects a sample of active lava for chemical anal...
October 23, 2015

An Geologist collects a sample of active lava for chemical analysis...

An HVO geologist collects a sample of active lava for chemical analysis. The lava is quenched with water in the metal bucket.

A repeating loop showing a hammer scooping lava from a flow and dropping it into a bucket.
September 28, 2015

Lava Sampling

This is an animated GIF, taken from a longer video, showing the moment that this geologist from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scoops up lava from an active flow and drops it into a bucket of water to cool it down. 

Preview image for video: shows an HVO geologist sampling lava on th...
September 24, 2014

shows an Geologist sampling lava on the June 27th lava flow using a...

Preview image for video: shows an HVO geologist sampling lava on the June 27th lava flow using a rock hammer. The lava is placed into a bucket of water to quench the sample. Lava samples like this are routinely collected for chemical analysis, which provides insight into the magmatic system feeding the eruption.

An HVO geologist shields his face from the intense heat as he takes...
October 21, 2013

An Geologist shields his face from the intense heat as he takes a s...

An HVO geologist shields his face from the intense heat as he takes a sample of active lava on the Kahauale‘a 2 flow. The chemistry of the lava is analyzed through time and used to study changes in the magmatic system.

At 10:35 a.m. an HVO geologist collects spatter sample at fissure 1...
May 6, 2018

At 10:35 a.m. an Geologist collects spatter sample at fissure 10 ne...

At 10:35 a.m. an HVO geologist collects spatter sample at fissure 10 near the intersection of Malama and Pomaikai Streets, Leilani subdivision

Image: Taking Lava Samples
July 14, 2010

Taking Lava Samples

Geologist taking a sample from a recently formed skylight on the Quarry flow lava tube. Samples collected directly from the lava tube are usually the best samples for chemical analysis.

Attribution:
Image: Lava Sampling: Thermal and Non-Thermal
June 3, 2010

Lava Sampling: Thermal and Non-Thermal

This image shows an HVO geologist sampling the lava that was seeping out of the interior of the rootless shield. The lava was placed in a bucket of water to quench the sample. The top frame is a normal photograph, while the bottom frame is a thermal image taken within a fraction of a second of the photograph. As the thermal image shows, the incandescent interior of the

...
Attribution:
Image: Lava Sampling
April 15, 2010

Lava Sampling

An HVO geologist takes a sample of active lava within a lava tube. The fluid lava sticks to the heavy hammer head at the end of the cable when it is lowered into the swiftly moving lava stream. These samples are analyzed routinely to track changes in lava chemistry.

Attribution: