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Lava Tubes on Mt. Kilauea
July 16, 2001

In 1983, the earth opened near the eastern shore of the Big Island of Hawai’i and a 7-km-long curtain of fire sprang up from the ground. Mount Kilauea Volcano had opened a new crack on its southeastern face—called Pu’u O’o—to vent vast torrents of molten rock. That eruption has been going strong ever since, and scientists estimate that Pu’u O’o produces between 300,000 and 600,000 cubic meters of lava per day.

The effects of the eruption are evident in this false-color image aqcuired from Landsat 7 on May 23, 2001. The red regions show solidified rock from previous lava flows. Notice the thin yellow ribbon snaking toward the ocean away from where the steam is venting. This yellow ribbon shows the location of a river of molten rock running beneath the surface—called a lava tube. Such areas are particularly dangerous to hikers and explorers as these tubes may collapse without warning.

image: Laura Rocchio, NASA/Landsat 7 Science Team

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