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The Hawai’ian volcano that created a spectacular firehose of lava just collapsed

A volcano in Hawai’i was home to a dramatic feature last month: a ‘firehose’ of molten lava that streamed from a hole in a sea cliff into the Pacific Ocean. The creation of the stream was widely reported, and according to the US Geological Survey, the cliff has now collapsed.

The massive section of the Kamokuna lava delta, located in Hawai’i’s Volcanoes National Park, initially collapsed into the ocean on New Year’s Eve. The section had been an ideal viewing platform for visitors hoping to look at the active Kilauea shield volcano and the lava that it spews out. According to the USGS, the collapse caused “solid and molten fragments of lava and superheated steam exploded skyward, creating tremendous hazard for anyone” who had ignored warning signs.

What remained was a beautiful stream of red, molten lava pouring out from the newly-formed cliff into the ocean, creating a massive plume of steam.

Following the initial collapse, the USGS began monitoring the site; they warned visitors to keep their distance due to the instability of the cliff and flying debris created by explosions of steam where the lava meets the cold ocean water. While they’ve been doing that, they’ve been posting some incredible pictures and videos of the formation before it fizzled out.

Thermal image captured on January 25th
US Geological Survey

Closeup of the firehose on February 28th
US Geological Survey

The firehose on February 28th
US Geological Survey

The firehose on February 29th
US Geological Survey

Geologists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory first spotted cracks on the cliff from aerial surveys on January 25th, and visited the site to take measurements and observed a foot-wide crack in the ground. They noted that the crack could likely “be a precursor to collapse of an unstable section of the sea cliff,” and continued to warn visitors away. In the following days, the crack grew two and a half feet, and geologists on the scene reported that they could hear and see the section of rock moving. “These signs indicate that the section of sea cliff around the ocean entry is highly unstable and could collapse at any time.”

When the geologists hiked back on February 2nd, the section of rock did just that: it collapsed into the sea before them without warning. (They were unharmed).

The latest collapse meant the end of the spectacular firehose stream, although there are indications that lava is still flowing into the sea.

The sea cliff on February 2nd, following the collapse
US Geological Survey

The images and video show the raw power of volcanic activity. It’s beautiful, but incredibly dangerous.


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