The Slow Motion Nature of Pāhoehoe Lava

Oct 30, 2014

Credit USGS

The type of lava approaching Pahoa is a particular type of molten rock.  Hawaiians and volcanologists call this type of overlapping strain of lava--Pāhoehoe, a name introduced in 1875.  It flows smoothly from a volcano’s vent, coating the ground like a parking lot.  As it creeps along, it makes a sound like styrofoam being walked on, or Christmas ornaments breaking.  Its famous “ropey” texture is created as it encounters resistance in its path, causing it to bunch and layer.  Mike Poland is from Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. 

 Hawaiian lava is about 2,100 degrees when it leaves the vent.  As it travels, its cools at a rate of one degree per kilometer.