There’s A Massive, Icy Underworld Hiding INSIDE One Of Hawaii’s Volcanoes

It turns out Hawaii is a land of fire and ice.

In addition to having mesmerizing lava that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, Hawaii’s Big Island is home to a surprising, rarely seen and extremely fragile geological phenomenon: lava tube caves with permanent ice.

Few people realize these icy underworlds exist — and, according to a recent study, they might not be around for much longer.

Like Earth’s polar ice caps and glaciers, at least one of these remote ice caves is melting at an alarming rate, and unsurprisingly, scientists say the most likely culprit is climate change.

Norbert Schörghofer, a researcher and planetary scientist at the University of Hawaii, was studying permafrost on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea when he first heard about ice caves on nearby Mauna Loa — the world’s largest active volcano.

“I followed up on these rumors and spent a lot of time tracking down whether they exist,” he told The Huffington Post.

In November 2011, he and a small team, including Stephen Smith, a cave researcher and chair of the Hawaii Speleological Survey, finally relocated one of only two known ice caves on Mauna Loa, simply called “Mauna Loa Ice Cave.”

Hawaii’s high-elevation cave systems can be home to perennial ice because of the way air circulates inside of them.

Schörghofer said the lava tubes slope downhill, trapping cold air and acting as a kind of “ice cellar.”

“As long as temperatures remain cold enough, there will be ice,” he said.

But the Mauna Loa Ice Cave is losing ice at an alarming rate, according to Schörghofer and Smith.

From 2011 to 2014, their team made periodic visits to the remote cave to monitor temperature, humidity and ice levels. By comparing their own data to a —> Read More