Lava flowing into the ocean
Buzz Andersen
Lava dripping into the ocean in Hawaii.

A new study co-authored by University of Washington researchers examines the effects of molten lava that flowed into the ocean as the result of the eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawai’i from April to August 2018.

UW School of Oceanography professors Virginia Armbrust and Anitra Ingalls found phytoplankton growth in the typically nutrient-poor Pacific, stimulated by high concentrations of nutrients from the lava. This growth resulted in an extensive plume of microbes, which the researchers sampled via subsea gliders and satellite monitoring. The researchers concluded that the plume was fed by the lava heating subsurface water, causing deepwater nutrients including nitrate to rise up to the surface.

More information on the study is available in the Kilauea press release from the University of Hawai’i.

Read the full study »