VIDEO: Lava Flows Impact Hawaiian Marine Life

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You’ve likely seen the gut-wrenching yet fascinating footage of Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano, which destroyed 600 homes and covered hundreds of acres of land in lava in the last month. The volcanic flows, which have reached the ocean in three places, are also having an effect on marine life.

In an article and video on khon2.com, University of Hawaii professor of oceanography Frank Sanson explains, "On the shoreline, the differences will be night and day. What used to be a lush productive environment with [tide] pools and animals of all different kinds, it's going to be either a black sand beach or a cliff."

The explosive nature of the flows can have additional effects underwater. "When the lava goes under, it erupts under water,” says Sansone. “There's a lot of explosions. That's from hydrogen gas exploding. If you were diving there, you would feel the sound of these explosions as a slam against your chest."

Sansone says the good news is that most marine life simply leaves for more hospitable environments. This stunning video from the U.S. Geological Survey shows where one particular flow from Kilauea enters Kapoho Bay.

Samsone said it could take hundreds of years for marine life to return to the area. "What we're going to see are more deep-water animals that normally reside along this coast. We will not see the inshore, the coastal kind of things, that made Kapoho such a special place."

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