Janice Boekhoff

Blue Fire Volcano

Kawah Ijen

I’m constantly amazed at how God has created the world. There’s always something amazing to discover.

Like a blue fire volcano!

The volcano Kawah Ijen lies along a subduction zone in Indonesia. If you think of the earth as a baseball, the leather in the baseball represent the techtonic plates and the seams are where the plates meet. In a subduction zone, one plate slides under the other causing the rock on the lower plate to melt. This melted rock is more buoyant and rises to the surface, sometimes coming out in volcanic eruptions of lava and gas.

But Kawah Ijen has a special kind of volcanic display—blue fire. This blue phenomenon cascades down the volcano like lava, but it’s not blue lava. It’s actually rivers of sulfur. The sulfur gas escapes from cracks called fumeroles, hits the cooler air and some of it condenses into liquid sulfur.

When this sulfur ignites, it burns with blue fire (at up to 1,112°F) and appears to flow down the volcano like lava. Some of the flames reach as high as 16 feet.

This volcano generates so much sulfur that the local people mine it. They use spring water to condense the sulfur around ceramic pipes, which hardens it. Then these sulfur miners carry their rock load (usually 100 to 200 lbs of sulfur) down the volcano on their backs. What a way to make a living.

Check out the National Geographic link here for more amazing pictures of this blue volcano!


References: Skelton, Renee. “Blue Volcano.” National Geographic Kids, March 2015, p. 22.


Photo Credit: ID 38085143 © Anekoho | Dreamstime.com

Fun Science Fact


I love volcanoes! In fact, all three of the books I’ve written have a volcanologist (volcano geologist) in there somewhere. What draws me to them? It must be the primordial earth-generating thing or maybe it’s a danger thing. Aren’t we all attracted to the extreme places on our planet? Or maybe it’s just me.

Now, I can add one more dangerous thing about volcanoes to my list (as if gigantic explosions and fast flowing molten rock weren’t enough).


Volcanic lightning, or ‘dirty thunderstorms’, occur during powerful eruptions when ash and dust are ejected into the air in a great cloud. These particles carry strong electrical charges, which generate enormous lightning bolts that flash through the churning ash clouds.

I believe this picture is computer generated, but the actual pictures of volcanic lightning are just as spectacular. To see some, click here.

Reference: http://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/lightning-and-lava/ss-BBaYZIY?ocid=eie9hp#image=1

Photo Credit: ID 27558491 © Satori13 | Dreamstime.com

Fun Science Fact


I’m back from Mount Rainier in Washington State and it was an incredible trip! I’ve been to Seattle three times, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen “the mountain” (as the locals call it). The other times it’s been draped with heavy clouds, so thick that I’ve driven on the road next to it and not seen it at all.

Why? Because Mt. Rainier creates its own weather. Yes, this monster mountain forces air up its slopes, which then condenses into clouds as the air cools.

I’ve fallen completely in love with this place. I loved the forested slopes, the lava drenched ridges, and the glacier encrusted peak. How could you not?

But this was not just a pleasure trip. The book I have recently finished is set on Mt. Rainier and so it was research time. I needed to check my facts.

I stalked several park rangers and even one park geologist. I drove around the mountain several times, stopping about every 50 feet to take a picture. Then, it was time to hike (and oh my goodness did we hike).

My brother and I hiked to the top of Emerald Ridge, up to almost 6,000 feet elevation, which is about a third of the way up. Columbia Crest is the highest peak on Mt. Rainier at 14,410 feet. Hiking to Emerald Ridge and back took us on a round trip of 13 miles and right at 9 hours to complete. My muscles have never been so sore in my entire life. Even my toes hurt.

After all that, here are some cool things I learned about Mt. Rainier, not just during our hike or my ranger stalking, but also through lots of research (meaning I read the displays at the visitors center):


Explosive Lava

Mt. Rainier is not as explosive as Mt. St. Helens because the lava from Mt. Rainier is andesite (a lava with less silica). On Mt. St. Helens the lava has more silica (mostly dacite) which makes it thicker and more likely to trap gases, hence its explosive nature (yes, I said it, Mt. St. Helens has explosive gas).

Steam Caves

At the top of Mt. Rainier, under the ice pack, are steam caves, formed when heat from the volcano melts the glacial ice. Most of the steam caves lead to a glacial lake under the ice. How cool is that?

Glacial Thickness

Most of the glaciers on Mt. Rainier are around 200-300 feet thick, but the Carbon Glacier is 700 feet thick in some places.

Tree Islands

The slopes of Mt. Rainier are dotted with islands of trees because the growing season is only two months long (that’s how long the lower half of the mountain is free of ice). Trees can only grow in spots where the ice melts the fastest—on ridges, or in areas where shrubbery is already established, which keeps the ground warmer.


The average snowfall at the Henry Jackson Visitors Center (6,000 feet elevation) is about 650 inches (over 54 feet). The record snowfall is approximately 1,100 inches (over 90 feet). This explains why the park goes into lock down all winter long.

Photo Credit: Me

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