Posted by: Anna Webb | June 10, 2009

Laze – Lava Steam Plume


Laze - Lava steam plume from lava entering ocean at Kalapana

Laze - Lava steam plume from lava entering ocean at Kalapana

The plume at Kalapana was “going off” thick this morning and I had to take photos of it from my side lanai. It’s quite dramatic when the rays of the rising Sun illuminate all the details of its churning, changing shape.

When lava flows from the Pu’u’O’o vent toward the ocean, it forms a lava tube as the top of the surface flow hardens. The lava then changes from slow moving a’a lava (chunky) to fast moving pahoehoe (smooth). As it enters the ocean it is transformed as “hot meets cold” into lava glass and a steamy plume of “laze” is created. 

This morning's dramatic display taken from my side lanai

This morning's dramatic display taken from my side lanai

Currently it is located at Kalapana at the end of Rt. 130 about 5 miles down the coast from where I live. The lava viewing area is located here and while surface flows come and go, an upclose view of the plume is not to be missed. While it may look like a lovely cloud puff from a distance, a much heated battle takes place within it. At times, lightning and small explosions can be witnessed as 1100C degree lava flash cools in the ocean. In addition, small water spouts are spawned from it from time to time in the cooler Winter season. It could truly be considered as an independent weather system condensed into a very small affected area. 

Typically it blows toward the SW out into the ocean when tradewinds are prominent. As you can see this morning, there was no wind and it was churning straight up. At times, when winds blow from the south, it pumps continuous cloud formations up toward Pahoa along the ridge of Highway 130 (from my perspective). 

Some of my mainland friends and relatives may think I’m crazy for living so close to possibly the world’s most active volcano. However, it’s the constant flow that keeps it healthy preventing it from building up inside and providing Kilauea with its easy-going disposition. We could personally learn a lot from that statement.


Older article from 2002, but great description of laze


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