When Lava Meets Ice

February 13, 2023

when lava meets ice

When lava meets ice

Those of us who live in areas with year-round glaciers know that molten lava can often meet and interact with snow. But observing these interactions in the field is a dangerous proposition, as lava can explode or tunnel down through the snow. But one team took a different approach, pouring 660 pounds (300 kg) of hot lava onto a sheet of ice at Syracuse University in 2013, and the results were pretty spectacular.

Why Lava Doesn't Melt Through Ice

While you might think that when lava hits ice it would melt through the ice, experts explain it does actually move across the ice, forming massive bubbles while making a noise that sounds like a frying pan filled with boiling oil. This happens because the lava is super hot, and the ice has a high heat capacity.

How Lava Flows On Ice

This is another interesting aspect of the lava-ice interaction. When the lava meets the ice, it immediately turns into steam, inflating the bubbles that form underneath. This steam keeps the lava from directly touching the ice, creating a cushion that allows the lava to move along the ice's surface.

This is a natural process that occurs when lava meets ice, and it's similar to how glass blowing works. As the lava cools, it forms a thick black layer that traps the heat. This thick layer is why lava doesn't just melt through the ice, and it also keeps the lava from moving straight across the ice.


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