5 Most Incredible Lava Lakes On Earth

5 Most Incredible Lava Lakes On Earth

  • Image: swisseduc

    What looks like a light show in a crater is actually a lava lake. Long-lasting lava lakes are extremely rare because they require active volcanoes with eruptions that produce enough active lava. Currently, there are only five lava lakes in the world: Erta Ale in Ethiopia, Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kilauea in Haiwaii, Mount Erebus in Antarctica and Villarrica in Chile. Let’s take a closer look at these natural wonders.

    Lava lakes can form in the vent or crater of a volcano or a broad depression. They contain large amounts of lava in either molten, partly solidified or completely solidified states. Explosive eruptions can also be caused when ground water hits hot or molten rock and flashes into steam.

  • Image: Tambora

    1. Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo

    This volcano has probably the most violent lava lake in the world as it continues to be fuelled by frequent eruptions of Nyiragongo Volcano, which are caused by the rifting of the Earth’s crust where a part of the African Plate is breaking apart.

  • Image: Tambora

    Nyiragongo close up: The amazing spectacle as seen from the volcano rim.

    Nyiragongo is a stratovolcano, a towering peak whose main crater is 250 m deep and 2 km wide. A major eruption started on January 17th, 2002, which displaced 500,000 people as lava flows even reached the city of Goma, 20 km away.

  • Image: US Geological Survey

    The spectacle from a little way off. This picture nicely shows Nyiragongo’s wide rim.

  • Image: Volcano Discovery

    Here’s a video of Nyiragongo’s lava lake bubbling. Is anyone else feeling hot?

  • Image: Jacques Durieux

    2. Erta Ale, Ethiopia

    Erta Ale is a 613 m-tall, isolated shield volcano sitting right on top the East African Rift. Shield volcanoes get their name from their low-angle profile that resembles a warrior’s shield. Erta Ale is Ethiopia’s most active volcano.

  • Image: Lothar Fritsch

    Here is a helicopter view, taken in February 1994, of the active lava lake. The red patches inside the crater are molten lava that is breaking through the lava lake’s solidified, black crust. The two red dots at the rim are volcanists in protective gear and helmets taking in the incredible sight.

  • Image: Tambora

    Here’s a close-up of Erta Ale’s red hot lava cauldron with gas eruptions.

    The lava lake is at the summit and is the world’s longest and oldest, as it has been present since the beginning of the last century. Erta Ale is located in the Afar Depression, a desert area at the border to Eritrea. The volcano’s last major eruption on September 25, 2005 and others since were covered in our article on Erta Ale.

  • Image: Kilauea Adventure

    See the lava bubbling away in this amazing video of Erta Ale.

  • Image: Briinhi

    3. Kilauea, Hawaii

    Here’s an incredible picture of the lava flowing into the sea.

    Kilauea is the youngest and probably the world’s most active volcano, continuously spewing out lava since January 3, 1983.

  • Image: US Geological Survey

    Here’s an even closer shot of a wall of lava from Kilauea.

    No wonder then that it also has its own goddess, for it is the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. She must be one hell of an angry goddess as eruptions are said to take place whenever she’s in a foul mood.

  • Image: J.D. Griggs

    Another amazing picture of Kilauea’s lava flowing into the sea like a red hot waterfall.

    Kilauea (“spewing” in Hawaiian) is one of the five shield volcanoes that form the island of Hawaii.

  • Image: Maksim

    Another spectacular view of Mount Kilauea’s eruption.

  • Image: Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory

    This was Puu Oo’s lava pond in 1990.

  • Image: Garcia B.

    Basaltic lava destroyed the whole village of Kalapana, Hawaii.

  • Image: Betty

    For those who can’t get enough, watch this dramatic video of one of Kilauea’s many recent eruptions.

  • Image: Sean Brockelsby

    4. Mount Erebus, Antarctica

    Here’s a bird’s-eye-view of Mount Erebus’ lava lake as seen in 1983.

    Mount Erebus Volcano on Ross Island in Antarctica is like the expression “fire and ice” personified.

  • Image: Jean-Claude Tanguy

    An amazing picture of Erebus with the lava lake (inset) from Space.

    The 3,794m-tall volcano is a stratovolcano whose last eruption was in 2008 and is still going strong.

  • Image: Jonathan Lewis

    Mount Erebus’ impressive smoking crater.

    Mount Erebus is the world’s southernmost active volcano and part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a cluster of more than 160 active volcanoes.

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Simone Preuss
Simone Preuss
Scribol Staff