Kilauea Could See First Explosive Eruption Since 1924

May 10, 2018

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Amid Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano’s ongoing eruption and earthquakes, the US Geological Survey released a new alert on Wednesday that warned of an explosive eruption that could launch 10-ton volcanic rocks thousands of feet into the air and spew plumes of ash as far as 20 miles.

Kilauea hasn’t had such an eruption in almost 100 years, despite being Hawaii’s most active volcano. The last explosive eruption happened in 1924, killing one person and causing ash to cloud the air for 17 days.

The way the volcano’s internal conditions are changing could mean a blast in as soon as a week, Charles Mandeville, a volcano hazards coordinator for USGS, told AP. Although the conditions might shift to avoid another major eruption, too.

USGS said that if the lava lake at summit of Kilauea drops too low, there is a possibility of explosive eruption. The explosions can also release toxic gases, in addition to shooting ballistic projectiles — some as big as a refrigerator — miles into the air. The “danger zone” for such an eruption could be about three miles around the volcano.

The ash clouds and other risks from an explosive eruption could shut down operations at the island’s airport, as well. Airlines have been issuing travel waivers in response to Kilauea’s first eruption, which happened last Thursday. That eruption sent magma oozing through a suburb called Leilani Estates and caused nearly 2,000 residents to evacuate.

A “very violent” steam explosion could also occur if the molten rock seeps below the island’s water table. The hot rocks would meet with the groundwater and build up steam pressure until they explode.

“If an explosion happens, there’s a risk at all scales,” Donald Swanson, a USGS volcanologist told The Washington Post.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) confirmed eruption activity has so far paused at all 15 volcanic fissures in Lanipuna Subdivision. However, hazardous fumes continue to be released. Residents of Leilani Estates are advised to monitor themselves amid the area’s increased levels of sulfur dioxide. 

H/T: AP

Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images.

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