Deadly lake with waters of 185 degrees develops in the belly of Hawaiian volcano

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A massive lake is bubbling in the belly of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano at temperatures ranging from 176 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, deeming it one of the world’s hottest bodies of water.

The lagoon surfaced following a 2018 eruption that caused part of the caldera floor to collapse, leaving ‘a hole nearly as deep as One World Trade Center’ in New York City.

However, the intense heat has left scientists baffled, as there are only a handful of volcanic lakes globally that reach above 176 degrees.

The US Geological Survey is closely monitoring the lake and are looking at residual heat in rubble at the base or neighboring gas vents that could be heating the body of water. 

Although the  Kilauea is not showing signs of a future eruption, officials note that changes in lake temperatures ‘might be precursors to upcoming hazards.’

The USGS also noted that: ‘Magma interacting with near-surface water can, in some circumstances, trigger steam-blast explosions’ 

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A massive lake is bubbling in the belly of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano at temperatures ranging from 176 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, deeming it one of the world's hottest bodies of water. Experts are using thermal cameras to monitor temperatures

A massive lake is bubbling in the belly of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano at temperatures ranging from 176 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, deeming it one of the world’s hottest bodies of water. Experts are using thermal cameras to monitor temperatures

Don Swanson, a volcanologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said: ‘The next eruption could happen slowly and the water could evaporate.’

‘We do not want to be alarmist, but we also need to point out to the public that there is an increasing possibility of explosive eruptions at Kilauea.’

The Kilauea volcano is Hawaii’s youngest and most active shield volcano that sites on the southern part of the Island of Hawai’i, also known as ‘Big Island.’

The mysterious lake was spotted in July 2019 by helicopter pilots who noticed water pooling into in the lowest part of the crater.

Although the volcano is not erupting or showing signs of such an event, the US Geological Survey (USGS) is closely monitoring the summit,' as it may provide another useful 'window' into what's happening beneath the surface

Although the volcano is not erupting or showing signs of such an event, the US Geological Survey (USGS) is closely monitoring the summit,’ as it may provide another useful ‘window’ into what’s happening beneath the surface

The lagoon surfaced following a 2018 eruption that caused part of the caldera floor to collapse, leaving 'a hole nearly as deep as One World Trade Center' in New York City. The mysterious lake was spotted in July 2019 by helicopter pilots who noticed water pooling into in the lowest part of the crater

The lagoon surfaced following a 2018 eruption that caused part of the caldera floor to collapse, leaving ‘a hole nearly as deep as One World Trade Center’ in New York City. The mysterious lake was spotted in July 2019 by helicopter pilots who noticed water pooling into in the lowest part of the crater

And NASA satellite images show water levels have steadily risen ever since. 

The lake covers an area that is larger than five football fields and is about 100 feet deep with a rusty brown sheen layer on the surface caused by chemical reactions in the water.

Although the volcano is not erupting or showing signs of such an event, the US Geological Survey (USGS) is closely monitoring the summit, ‘as it may provide another useful “window” into what’s happening beneath the surface,’ the organization shared in a statement.

Officials have gathered samples from the heated lake and are using thermal cameras to monitor temperature changes in the lake.

The US Geological Survey is closely monitoring the lake and are looking at residual heat in rubble at the base or neighboring gas vents that could be heating the body of water

The US Geological Survey is closely monitoring the lake and are looking at residual heat in rubble at the base or neighboring gas vents that could be heating the body of water

‘It turns out, the lake temperature can be a little difficult to measure. Right away, it was evident that the steam rising from the water surface (and mixing with air) was much cooler than the water, and the steam layer was thick enough that it masked much of the underlying water surface,’ USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) explains. 

‘Seeing through these gaps in the steam is key. Collecting and analyzing hundreds of images at a time provides the best chance to capture the occasional views through the steam and get an estimate of the hot, underlying water surface.’

The team has narrowed down two explanations for why the lake temperature is so extreme and why it may keep increasing.

The first may be residual heat in the collapse rubble at the base of the crater from rock that was heated by the lava column prior to the 2018 collapse.

The other culprit could be neighboring gas vents that spew steam out at 302 degrees.

Although the Kilauea is not showing signs of a future eruption, officials note that changes in lake temperatures 'might be precursors to upcoming hazards

Although the Kilauea is not showing signs of a future eruption, officials note that changes in lake temperatures ‘might be precursors to upcoming hazards

‘One of the main reasons HVO is closely tracking the lake temperature is to identify any changes that might be precursors to upcoming hazards,’ the team wrote.

‘For instance, at several other volcanic lakes around the world, changes in lake temperature have preceded explosions.’

‘Over the past year, Kīlauea’s lake temperatures have stayed in the same range, and we do not yet see any significant or systematic change.’

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