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What happens when a volcano erupts underwater?

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Swim into Hawaiian waters with PBS Digital Studios’ UnderH2O team to see how lava from the rumbling shield volcano Kilauea continues to burst into the Pacific Ocean, quickly cooling to form bulbuous lobes called pillow lava.

As described at Wikipedia, the rounded forms “are created when magma reaches the surface but, as there is a large difference in temperature between the lava and the water, the surface of the emergent tongue cools very quickly, forming a skin.”

lava breaking through

“The tongue continues to lengthen and inflate with more lava, forming a lobe, until the pressure of the magma becomes sufficient to rupture the skin and start the formation of a new eruption point nearer the vent. This process produces a series of interconnecting lobate shapes that are pillow-like in cross-section. The skin cools much faster than the inside of the pillow, so it is very fine-grained, with a glassy texture. The magma inside the pillow cools slowly, so it is slightly coarser-grained than the skin, but it is still classified as fine grained.”

scubadiving near an active volcano
Another underwater adventure: Diving under a lake covered with Antarctic ice.

Plus: What makes volcanoes erupt?

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