While most people are familiar with “the floor being lava” as a concept—even as a Netflix show—it’s rare for there to be a literal lava floor. But that is indeed the case when geologists collect hot lava samples. Check out the harrowing process in the videos below, which, for some, may also be harrowing to watch.
This is how geologists collect lava samples from an active volcano. pic.twitter.com/SHQJwH1XB2— Wonder of Science (@wonderofscience) August 5, 2020
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) originally posted the full lava collection video back in May, 2017. But the above clip from the video has recently gone viral on Twitter, reigniting interest in the intense collection method.
In above the clip, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) geologist Tim Orr scoops samples of hot lava at Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano. Orr is shown plucking chunks of lava from a pāhoehoe lobe, and then chucking them into a bucket full of water. (Orr’s first-person experience is captured in the video below.)
In general, once the hot lava chunks have been cooled in water, they’re brought back to the lab for analysis. The USGS notes that researchers can glean ample data from hot lava samples. In this instance, researchers combined the data collected by Orr with the HVO’s geophysical monitoring data to help monitor Kīlauea’s activity.
The USGS also notes that hot lava samples provide important information about what’s going on in a volcano’s magma chambers. For example, geologists know that the more magnesium there is in magma, the hotter it is. Subsequently, researchers can identify both the crystallization history of the lava, as well as what its temperature was upon eruption.
A masked Tim Orr on his last day of field work as USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist collected a sample from Kīlauea Volcano. USGS pic.twitter.com/nx3ehUzjv9— Hawaii Pacific Parks Association (@HIPacParks) June 16, 2017
But all of the science aside, there’s just something that’s so satisfying about collecting hot lava, right? Tearing open the skin of the lava; the release of the oozing, molten rock; the way the hot chunks sizzle in the steel bucket of water. In fact, the process seems almost zen-like. And it probably would be too if it didn’t catalyze compulsive thoughts of Judge Doom melting from the feet up.
What do you think about this video of a geologist collecting hot lava samples? Would you like to go out in the field and quench some magma for yourself? Let’s play “the topic is lava” in the comments!
Featured Image: U.S. Geological Survey