Pahoehoe lava flow

Magma is called lava after it erupts from a volcano. Different types of eruption result in different types of lava.

For example, shield volcanoes such as Kilauea on the island of Hawaii produce large amounts of lava that is less viscous (less sticky) because it has less silica, SiO2, in it. Lava from these eruptions may flow as a rough textured type called aa (a Hawaiian word, pronounced "ah, ah"), or another type called pahoehoe, which often has wrinkle folds on its surface. During an eruption, pahoehoe may change into aa as it becomes more viscous.

Composite volcanoes such as Mount St Helens generally have relatively small amounts of viscous lava. The sticky nature of the lava and the magma that forms it is caused by its relatively high silica content and makes these eruptions very explosive.

Image: A pahoehoe basalt lava flow from Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii (credit: Stephen & Donna O'Meara/SPL)

Introduction

Pahoehoe lava flow Lava

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Lava

Lava is the molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. The source of the heat that liquefies the rock within the earth is geothermal energy. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at temperatures from 700 to 1,200 °C (1,292 to 2,192 °F). Up to 100,000 times as viscous as water, lava can flow great distances before cooling and solidifying because of its thixotropic and shear thinning properties.

A lava flow is a moving outpouring of lava, which is created during a non-explosive effusive eruption. When it has stopped moving, lava solidifies to form igneous rock. The term lava flow is commonly shortened to lava. Explosive eruptions produce a mixture of volcanic ash and other fragments called tephra, rather than lava flows. The word "lava" comes from Italian, and is probably derived from the Latin word labes which means a fall or slide. The first use in connection with extruded magma (molten rock below the Earth's surface) was apparently in a short account written by Francesco Serao on the eruption of Vesuvius between May 14 and June 4, 1737. Serao described "a flow of fiery lava" as an analogy to the flow of water and mud down the flanks of the volcano following heavy rain.

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