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April 27, 2022

Exploring hot spot volcanism and a mysterious lake at the summit of Kīlauea using models, USGS data, and Hawaiian moʻolelo

In 2018, Kīlauea, on the Island of Hawaiʻi, had a large eruption that resulted in one of the largest collapses of its summit caldera in two hundred years. This eruption led to a doubling in size of the Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea. About a year later, a small pond was observed at the bottom of the Halemaʻumaʻu crater. The water level steadily increased over the next 17 months and the small pond grew into a very large lake. On December 20, 2020, a vent opened in the crater walls and lava poured into the bottom of the crater, boiling off the entire lake in a very short period of time (about 1.5 hours). These lessons help students build models and use data to understand the details of the formation and disappearance of the lake. Each activity can stand alone, but when done together and in order, can provide students with the broader concepts needed to grasp the full story of Kīlauea. Activity questions are designed to link the three dimensions of NGSS and push students to make connections to broader phenomena.

This lesson introduces hot spot volcanism, the mysterious appearance of a lake in the summit of Kilauea, basic graphing skills using USGS data, and a STEAM component tied to native Hawaiian culture. This lesson is intended for elementary school grades 4-5, can be adapted to older grades, and is aligned to NGSS standards.

The lesson plan is available here:

image related to volcanoes. See description
No major changes were observed at Kīlauea's summit water lake during a visit. The lake color was mostly tan to brown, with a patch of greenish water in the western end (closer to photographer). USGS photo by M. Patrick.