FEB 10, 2017 9:52 AM PST

Antarctica's Lava Lake


On Mount Erebus, the tallest peak on Ross Island in Antarctica, there exists a molten lake of lava which constantly emits gas. The composition of that gas is unique in that it changes almost every ten minutes. Mount Erebus is an active volcano that has been bubbling for decades and within it it a crater that hold the 20 meter deep lake of lava. The lava in the lake reaches approximately 1000 degrees Celsius, which is quite the contrast with the air outside! Because of that contrast in temperature between the outside air and the convection currents which feed the lake, the lake's surface will not cool into hard rock.

Lava lakes require the specific structures of crater, conduit, and magma chamber in order to form. Without these structures, the convection currents cannot sustain the bubbling of the magma that composes the lake. Hence why there are only five molten lava lakes on the planet that have stayed bubbling in the last decade! Nevertheless, Mount Erebus's lava lake is special because it contains a rare type of magma called phonolite which is much thicker than the common basalt magma.

If you happen to be walking by a lava lake, beware of the degassing explosions that the lake might belch up from deep in its magma chamber belly. While this type of gas eruption is different from the more frequent shorter gas-emitting cycles, these eruptions are much more impressive!
About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 06, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Most Powerful X-ray Source On Earth
NOV 06, 2020
The Most Powerful X-ray Source On Earth
Located inside the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Z Pulsed Power Facility (or Z Machine) i ...
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
Scientists have identified a burst of cosmic radio waves- intense flashes of radio emission that last just a few millise ...
NOV 18, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
NOV 18, 2020
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
From pandemic precautions to televised talent shows, masks are having a moment. Even this bizarre bat species has a buil ...
MAR 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Sea Slug Shows Extreme Case of Regeneration
MAR 09, 2021
Sea Slug Shows Extreme Case of Regeneration
Some of the most interesting—and possibly strangest—scientific discoveries happen by accident. According to ...
MAR 23, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Implementing Illumina NGS is a lot easier than you think.
MAR 23, 2021
Implementing Illumina NGS is a lot easier than you think.
Dr. John-Sebastian Eden is a Virologist at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. His group u ...
JUN 28, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Yeast Engineered to Produce Biofuel from Previously Unusable Biomass
JUN 28, 2021
Yeast Engineered to Produce Biofuel from Previously Unusable Biomass
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to expand biofuel production with geneticall ...
Loading Comments...