Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Photo Information

Littoral explosion of lava bubble, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i
Photograph by C. Heliker on March 9, 1994
Lava bubble bursts above a lava tube within the bench at the Kamoamoa entry. Such explosions are caused when sea water invades the hot lava-tube system and flashes to steam. The expanding steam blows a thin-walled bubble of lava through the roof of the tube and hurls spatter onto the bench. Thin translucent sheets of glass, named limu o Pele for their resemblance to limu (seaweed), drift hundreds of meters downwind. Such explosions typically occur when the bench subsides, so that the tube is at or below sea level. 

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Updated: 18 May 2000