Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Photo Information

Littoral lava fountain, Kilauea Volcano
Copyrighted photograph by G. Brad Lewis on November 24, 1992
This type of high-energy lava-seawater explosion -- called a littoral lava fountain -- begins with the partial collapse of a lava delta's leading edge. If the subsidence of the delta submerges part of a lava tube, the confined interaction between lava and seawater in the tube may cause a series of violent steam explosions. The explosive activity captured in this photograph was part of a series of explosions during a 12-hour period that followed a partial delta collapse on the south coast of Kilauea on November 24, 1992.

Intermittent lava fountaining lasting 15 to 40 minutes apparently emptied the tube of lava; each fountaining episode was followed by quiet intervals of 20 to 90 minutes duration. During the quiet intervals, the tube gradually refilled with lava and triggered another lava-seawater explosive episode. This series of explosions hurled lava as far as 60 m from the vent.

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Updated: 2 June 2000 (SRB)