I’m sure you’ve read about the large eruption of Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island by now. There’s all the usual stuff you’d expect with a volcano like smoke, ash, lava, cracks in the Earth swallowing up cars and houses, etc. One thing I bet you’ve never heard of is Pele’s Hair, or fine strands of volcanic glass that are falling from the skies. Crazy!
Pele is the Hawaiian Goddess of Volcanoes, which is where Pele’s Hair derives it’s name. The hair like formations are created when molten basaltic glass is ejected from the volcano in tiny droplets which then elongate and cool as they fall from the sky. It has a golden yellow color resembling human hair or dried straw and is known to travel long distances in the wind before settling down to Earth.
According to the USGS, large amounts of Pele’s Hair have been accumulating east of the Kilauea eruption in the Leilani Estates and Pahoa. Residents are urged to avoid touching or breathing in the glass particles, because just like most glass, this stuff is sharp and abrasive. Hopefully you already knew that. This “lava glass” isn’t just all for show, scientists can use it to determine the magma’s temperature, as well as the path it took the to surface.
The spirit of Pele is believed to live in the Kilauea crater, but Pele’s Hair isn’t a phenomenon that only happens in Hawaii. Other volcanoes around the world like Masaya, Etna, Erta’ Ale, and places in Iceland are known to produce these fine glass strands. Volcanoes will never cease to amaze!