Credit: USGS

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Watch a Lava “Firehose” Spew Out of a Hawaiian Cliff

Kilauea is putting on a spectacularly scorching show

smithsonian.com

Lava is among the most dangerous—and intriguing—of substances. Drawn by its weird properties and its promise of revealing Earth’s deepest outpourings, scientists have long studied its different forms and even tried to make their own. But sometimes it’s enough to just stand back and be astonished. A new video of a “firehose” of lava spewing from a Hawaiian cliff is a great chance to do just that.

The astonishing flow you see above was captured at of a Kilauea cliff in Hawaii, the Associated Press reports. The “firehose” flow of lava was created when a large section of the volcano’s lava delta collapsed at the end of last year. Now lava is flowing through the newly exposed tube. Once it gets to the edge of the cliff, it shoots out toward the Pacific Ocean, falling 70 feet to the water.

The New Year’s Eve collapse of the lava delta was big news in Hawaii, especially after the 22-acre region was designated a viewing area by the National Park Service. Since then, officials have monitored the site for both safety and science. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports on its website that yesterday, geologists wearing protective garb went into the protected area and measured the crack exposed by the collapse. Though it was a foot wide on January 31, it was 2.5 feet wide yesterday. They heard grinding noises coming from the crack and watched the cliff move—a warning that at any time, the unstable ground could crumble.

Meanwhile, lava is plunging down into the ocean, astonishing viewers and shooting fragments of rock and glass into the air as the molten rock hits the much cooler water. Thermal images of the crack show another perspective on the lava flow; using that imagery, writes the USGS, geologists were able to determine that the lava is up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even if you can’t view the firehose of lava in person, it makes for impressive YouTubing. It’s not every day that you can watch the roiling insides of a real-life volcano spew toward the sea. The lava flows are technically part of an eruption of the legendary Kilauea volcano, as the USGS notes on its current conditions site. As National Geographic reported in 2009, the seemingly low-key volcano does have a much more dangerous side—but for now, it’s fun to watch nature’s fireworks in the absence of a big explosion.

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