Watch out for lava glass near erupting volcano, says U. of U. geologist

Dec 7, 2022, 5:30 PM

The world's largest active volcano is shooting fountains of lava more than 100 feet high and sendin...

Mauna Loa spewing lava on Tuesday. (Courtesy Paradise Helicopters)

(Courtesy Paradise Helicopters)

SALT LAKE CITY — Although the lava flowing from volcano Mauna Loa has slowed, it is still flowing at up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and no one knows when it will stop. Lava glass can be blown by wind, is as thin as your hair, stretches out several feet, but can get lodged in your eyes and cut into your skin.


Back in 2018, a slow flood of lava destroyed hundreds of homes on the Big Island as reported by CNN.

Taking up half the area of Big Island, Mauna Loa began erupting Nov. 27, the first time in nearly 40 years. It is the largest active volcano on Earth.

Jamie Farrell, University of Utah seismologist and research assistant professor with the Department of Geology & Geophysics, joins KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic with Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss volcanic dangers and something called lava hair or Pele’s hair, named after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, according to the National Park Service. 

“Let’s start with the blowing glass,” Debbie said. “Is that a real problem there?”

“It’s not really that much of a problem. . . . When you have these fissure eruptions, which is what we’re having on Mauna Loa.  . . . The lava gets ejected out at a pretty fast rate and then it cools really rapidly. It cools as glass and it gets stretched out and gets pushed out of the vent at a high velocity. And it forms these long strands . . . then that gets picked up in the wind.”

Farrell said the lava glass can be blown for long distances; if you pick it up, it can cut your skin. He added that the worst case scenario for the eruption is the lava begins to flow toward the town of Hilo on the Big Island.

Related reading

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa is erupting for the first time since 1984

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Watch out for lava glass near erupting volcano, says U. of U. geologist