Exploding Lava Creates New Danger as Kilauea Flows Into the Sea

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As if evaporating large lakes and creating toxic steam weren't enough, a new danger has emerged from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano as its month-long eruption continues.

A new video from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows explosions occurring in mid-air as lava flows into the ocean near the Big Island.

They're called "littoral explosions" and they occur when molten lava flows into cool ocean water. When waves splash onto molten lava, they explode into a cloud of steam, hot water and tephra, according to the USGS. The combination of those three elements make up what's called "tephra jet" or molten splatter.

The lava from Kilauea reached Kapoho Bay a little over a week ago. Now, fragments of molten lava and pieces of solidified glassy lava are being shot high into the air from the explosions.

Officials say this creates a new hazard on both land and sea as the lava fragments can be thrown far inland and seaward, spreading the damage to new areas of the island and ocean.

These aren't the first explosions that have caused concern. Blue flames appeared previously, indicating that methane gas from under the ground could create the potential for more explosions.

Since the initial eruption that forced some residents to evacuate, there have been more than 2,250 earthquakes and 20 fissures, destroying dozens of homes and closing off sections of the island.