Sunday, June 1, 2008

Names for Lava

Lava is weird stuff. Craters of the Moon is a great place to explore hardened lava, since you can walk out on it and even through the tunnels that are left when the outer lava surface cooled and the inside lava flowed on before cooling. Not surprisingly, the terminology used to describe old lava flows mostly comes from Hawai'i, with its long experience of the strange shapes formed when lava cools. Pahoehoe (pa-hoy-hoy) means ropey and describes the sinuous forms basaltic lava takes when it cools slowly; the lava tubes are giant pahoehoe formations.
The other major lava form is a'a (ah-ah), which means hard on the feet; it is made up of sharp-edged clinkers that don't look any fun to cross.

The third type is the most boring both in name and shape: block lava is just about what it sounds like, squarish chunks that look pretty much like rocks everywhere. But it was explosively ejected from the volcano during an eruption, so it has a dramatic history.

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