What is laze? Hawaii volcano lava reaches Pacific Ocean

Lava from the Kilauea volcano has reached the Pacific Ocean off of Hawaii’s Big Island, creating a massive plume of “laze” - a toxic mixture of lava and haze.

>>Read: Lava flows toward geothermal plant on Hawaii’s Big Island as workers hurry to shut it down


Laze is formed when lava enters the ocean and sets off a series of chemical reactions. The seawater cools the lava and transforms it into glass, which shatters, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

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It creates white clouds of steam that contain toxic gas and tiny shards of volcanic glass.

Laze contains hydrochloric acid, which can cause skin irritation and breathing problems, Hawaii County officials warned.

Hydrochloric acid clouds can be as corrosive as diluted battery acid.


Laze itself is not dangerous enough to cause serious burns, unless someone is right on top of where the lava enters the ocean.

Hawaii County officials warn that plumes of "laze" could waft in the direction of residents near the lava entry to the Pacific Ocean, along the southern coast of the Big Island.

The Hawaii County Civil defense agency warns that laze plumes can travel with the wind and change direction without warning.

>>Photos: Hawaii Kilauea volcano eruption

Molten lava can wash onshore, so people should maintain a safe distance, CNN reports.

According to USGS, laze contributed to two deaths in 2000.