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Kilauea Volcano Lava Enters the Ocean
Lava steaming as it hits the ocean.
Credit: USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory

This image shows the youngest land on Earth, which is along the southern coast of Hawaii Island, where lava from Kilauea Volcano enters the ocean.

Steam can be seen rising in the aerial image taken on Sept. 30 as the piping hot lava meets the cool ocean waters.

Over time the lava pouring into the sea builds a delta, extending the shoreline of Hawaii. From November 1986 (when lava from the current eruption first reached the ocean), through December 2009, Kilauea created 475 acres (192.3 hectares) of new land. The natural-color satellite image (take by NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite) on Sept. 28) shows the broader shape of the Puhi-o-Kalaikini Delta.

Black areas in the satellite image are fresh lava flows, the earliest of which were laid down from 1986 to 1992. Activity along this section of coast resumed in 2007, with breakouts of lava earlier this year encroaching on the town of Kalapana, which was partially covered in 1990 and 1991.

Healthy vegetation is green in the image, while vegetation scorched by recent lava flows is brown. Trade winds blow the white plume of steam to the west.


November 1986, throughDecember 2009, Kilauea created 475 acres of new land.
November 1986, throughDecember 2009, Kilauea created 475 acres of new land.
Credit: Robert Simmon


Kilauea means "spewing" or "much spreading" in the Hawaiian language, referring to its frequent outpouring of lava. The Pu?u???? cone has been continuously erupting since 1983, making it the longest rift-zone eruption of the last 200 years. Since 1952, there have been 33 eruptions, not including the current episode.

The volume of erupted material from Kilauea covering the land there is enough to pave a road across the world three times, making it one of the most active volcanoes on the planet