When humans breathe, they release carbon dioxide gas that has built up inside them. The Kilauea volcano on the Island of Hawai'i is no different.
It is the world's most active volcano. At its base, giant curtains of fire spew forth from fissure vents, creating a shifting wall of magma. Interestingly, the curtain of fire requires no explosive activity from the volcano itself. The cause of the fiery curtain is the expansion of gas within the vents and oddly enough, the weight of the lava.
Contrary to the commonly imagined steep-sloped science fair volcano, Kilauea is a shield volcano, meaning it has very shallow slopes. The shallow slopes that form Kilauea and the other volcanoes of Hawai'i Island are constructed as the heavy fluid lava flows away from the volcano, with the help of gravity. In Hawaiian, Kilauea literally translates to "much spreading." As the lava constantly stretches under the pressure of its own weight, fractures form. It is from these fractures or fissure vents that, squeezed by the massive pressures of the lava itself, fiery curtains of magma erupt.
Know Before You Go
Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park is located on the island of Hawai`i. From Hilo: 30 miles southwest on Highway 11 (a 45 minute drive); from Kailua-Kona: 96 miles southeast on Highway 11 (2 to 2 1/2 hour drive), or 125 miles through Waimea and Hilo via highways 19 and 11 (2 1/2 to 3 hours).