At present, lava is still entering the sea at multiple points in Kapoho Bay. It’s happening frequently and quickly enough that it’s making a new delta, the youngest land on Planet Earth.
This lava is coming entirely from Fissure 8, the last one standing. As Dr Wendy Stovall, a senior volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), told us a few days back, this focusing of the lava effusions on one single fissure is typical for this kind of eruption.
The fluidity, gas-rich nature of the exceedingly hot magma is representing itself at this fissure by creating lava fountains higher than 20-story buildings, and plenty of that material is raining down on the landscape.
Plenty of this is going towards building that cinder cone you see in the USGS’s photography of the area. Some is going further afield, and seeing as this is the only source of vertical lava, the olivine is likely to be coming from here.
“I think it is just coming out either in the air – which civilians on the ground have said – or breaking free upon impact,” Krippner told IFLScience. It’s probably not down to weathering, as this “should take longer.”
If it is breaking free on impact, it’s likely escaping from pieces of freshly cooled scoria, lava-formed rock that’s peppered with very small holes called vesicles. Olivine, which has crystallized out of the magma earlier as it chilled, is just hitching a ride out of hell.
Stovall pointed out to IFLScience, however, that the presence of olivine raining down is based on a second-hand report. It hasn’t been observed by any of the USGS geologists, who have also yet to see crystals like this on the ground.
“I even had people who were in the field yesterday looking for them,” she added, noting that it is nevertheless plausible that olivine crystals could be preferentially fractionated out from the melt near the lava fountain. At the moment, then, consider this an open question.
Update: The USGS told me via Twitter that they still haven't seen this phenomenon for themselves, and the olivine doesn't look like primary deposits from Fissure 8. Perhaps, then, the olivine samples were produced by an older eruptive event and were just stumbled upon by civilians.
In response, though, Dr John Faithfull, a petrologist at the University of Glasgow, tweeted the following, below.
Again, the process is possible, but it's not clear if that's what produced the olivine on this particular occasion. We'll keep you updated if something definitive comes in!