Overhead Drone of Kilauea Eruption screengrab
New volcanic activity in Hawaii
01:02 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Unless you’re a meteorologist or you live in an area with an active volcano, you may not know that a hot spot can refer to more than just Wi-Fi.

From your social feeds to news articles, terms like that have been popping up since the Kilauea volcano erupted in Hawaii last week.

Here are some common words and phrases used when discussing volcanic activity, as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Teacher’s Guide to Stratovolcanoes and the US Geological Survey.


These are the long cracks or fractures in the Earth’s surface that lava erupts from.

Fissures can vary in length.

Hot spot

Basically, a pressure pimple in the Earth’s mantle that erupts to become a volcano.

Lava fountains

A stream of lava that sprays into the air because of gas bubbles forming and expanding in a volcano. Fountains erupt from vents along fissures within active lava lakes.

A lava fountain shoots up into the air in Hawaii.

Lava lakes

A large amount of molten lava contained in a vent or crater.


A mashup of “lava” and “haze,” laze is a nasty product formed when hot lava hits the ocean, sending hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air. Laze can cause lung, eye and skin irritation, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.


The molten rock below the Earth’s surface. Lava is the term for magma after it erupts from a volcano.

Once magma reaches the earth's surface, it's called lava.

Rift zone

The area where the volcano is splitting apart. The rock in this zone is weak and cracked, making it easier for magma to reach the surface.

The ground in the rift zone is often cracked open.

Sulfur dioxide

A colorless gas with a strong odor that can irritate skin and eyes. It is one of the most common gases that comes out of a volcano.

Breathing large amounts of sulfur dioxide can result in burning of the nose and throat, and breathing difficulties.

Volcanic bombs

Hot lava thrown out of a volcano.

Volcanic bombs can change shape as they fly through the air. (Image from 2014.)

Volcanic vents

Openings in the Earth’s surface that discharge magma.

Lava flows from a volcanic vent in Italy.

CNN’s Michael Guy contributed to this report.