Kilauea – Hawaiians Facing Major Volcanic Eruption

 In Science

Hawaiians on the Big Island in Hawaii are in the throes of an eruption of Kilauea. Volcanic fissures have been opening nearly daily around the mountain, and there have been thousands evacuated from affected neighborhoods. As of Thursday, the summit of Kilauea uncorked, sending steam and ash about 30,000 feet into the air. Residents were advised to shelter in place.

Thirty thousand feet sounds like a huge eruption, but it’s much smaller than scientists feared. And it may not be through. The Halemaumau crater is the epicenter of the recent steam eruptions, and of late they have been growing. Tuesday’s ash cloud sent particles about 12,000 feet into the air. Today’s eruption occurred at 04:15 a.m.

“It’s a real dynamic situation up there. The one this morning is definitely the biggest we’ve seen so far.” Michelle Coombs, Hawaii Volcanic Observatory

About 100 years ago, a steam eruption at the mountain caused flying debris to kill one and left a layer of ash on homes and cars. A layer of ash is falling at this time. Speaking as one who lived through something similar from Mt. St. Helens in 1980, that ash is nothing to mess with. It hangs in the air for some time, unless it rains to clear it out. It’s extremely difficult to see through the haze, and it cloggs the engines of cars and any other equipment. These folks are living close to the eruption; we were hundreds of miles away.

USGS photo of May 17 eruption

USGS photo of May 17 eruption

HawaiiNewsNow reported,

Coombs said the eruption Thursday morning was “consistent” with a steam-induced explosion — lava interacting with the water table. Geologists have been warning about such an explosion for days, and have said previous thick emissions from the crater were likely due to rockfalls or gas explosions.

Volcanic activity at the summit has been ticking up as lava levels continued to drop. 

On Wednesday, at least 125 shallow quakes rattled Kilauea’s summit and neighboring communities, causing minor damage to roads and buildings. The strongest quake in the area was a magnitude 4.4, and dozens more have been upwards of magnitude 3.

Also on Wednesday, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said rocks up to 2 feet wide were hurled from the crater to a parking lot hundreds of yards away.

A day earlier, rockfalls triggered large ash emissions from the crater.

Creeping lava flows have also been a danger to places like Leilani Estates, where residents are under a mandatory evacuation order. But the danger from toxic sulfur dioxide fumes have been growing on the Big Island, and air quality has been steadily growing worse.

Scientists have been worried that an even bigger eruption could come, sending rocks “as big as cars” onto the citizens in the area.

Featured photo: screenshot of Tuesday’s eruption

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