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Lava Tester


From the website of the  Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (USGS):

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists get fresh lava samples as close to the vent as possible. Once the sample is scooped from the pāhoehoe lobe, it is quickly quenched in a bucket of water to stop the growth of any crystals and to preserve the composition of the liquid lava. Once cooled, the sample is sent first to UH Hilo for quick analysis of a few components and prepared for a fuller analysis of its chemical components by a lab on the mainland. These data are used, with HVO’s geophysical monitoring data, as another way to assess any changes that may be occurring within Kīlauea volcano.

17 replies

    • Often they train interns to handle this collection when the lava field is stable. Our pahoehoe lava is slow, smooth and relatively predictable so the danger is far less than places with explosive lava outflows.


    • It’s rare that people can approach a lava flow as closely as in Hawaii. That’s because our flows most often are like flowing molasses rather than those giant lava plumes seen elsewhere. I have stood next to lava as close as the guy in the photo and the heat output is incredible, like being next to a giant oven but once the crust has formed the ground temperature drops dramatically.


    • Rock makes a great insulator and when the lava cools the surface crust is only warm to the touch. It gets dicey if you break the crust, however, as inside where that red stuff is showing can be about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit which most definitely would toast your Hush Puppies.


  1. I’m continually in awe of the lava flows on the Big Island. There’s that smooth rolly kind like in the photo and then there are those jaggedy lava pebbles that are impossible to walk on without good stiff shoes. Volcanos are the coolest geological phenomena, personally I think those folks at the USGS have a pawsome job, even if work is hotter than Hades! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anyone who hikes the Big Island can appreciate your comments on the differences between the pahoehoe lava which is the stuff in the photo and ‘a’a lava which can rip your boot treads to shreds in short order. Slip and fall on recent ‘a’a and its to the hospital for you.

      Liked by 1 person

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