VHP Photo Glossary: Lava Drainback

Eruptive fissure and drainback, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

Photograph by J.P. Lockwood on 6 January 1983


Lava will sometimes return to the subsurface by flowing into an open crack, fissure, or active vent, in a process called drainback. Drainback is common in the late stages of an eruptive episode on Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, when lava reverses its normal direction of movement and flows back into the fissure or vent from which it was erupted.

The drainback pictured here on Kilauea Volcano can be seen in the lower right of the photo as the `a`a flow pours into an older crack. The lava is initially erupting from a fissure as a lava fountain on the east rift zone of Kilauea and then flowing towards and into the crack.

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