USGS
Hawaiian Volcano 
Observatory

Photo Information


Active lava delta, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i
Photograph by J. Wightman on March 25, 1999

View northeast along the southern coast of Kilauea Volcano toward the active lava delta. This new land began growing after a much larger delta collapsed into the sea on March 8 (this delta covered the area in the foreground).

The steam cloud rising from the edge of new land is composed of hydrochloric acid and seawater that results when molten lava boils and vaporizes seawater. Known locally as lava haze or laze, the plume contains as much as 10-15 parts per million of hyrdrochloric acid. During along-shore or on-shore winds, this plume produces acid rain that falls on people and land along the coast. This rain (pH 1.5-2.5), often more acidic than lime juice or stomach acid, is very corrosive to the skin and clothing.

Hydrochloric acid is a toxic gas that causes irritation to the throat, lungs, eyes, and nose. According to Federal guidelines, an individual's exposure to hyrdrochloric acid should not exceed 5 parts per million. In order to view the new land, people may encounter this acid rain.


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Updated: 26 March 1999