Hawaii’s unstoppable volcano eruption could go on – and on

Posted: May 9, 2018 by oldbrew in News, Uncertainty, volcanos

Lava flow in Hawaii

One volcanologist commented: “When a house today might look like it’s perfectly safe, it might get taken out by a lava flow five years from now if the eruption keeps on going.”

So much destruction, as ScienceAlert reports.

For the fleeing residents who had to evacuate the cracked, burning streets of Leilani Estates, Hawaii, last week, it would be natural to hope they could return to their homes shortly once the fury of eruption relents.

But that fury may not quit soon. The truth is this eruption didn’t happen last week.

It actually began in 1983, and the destruction being unleashed right now is just the latest (62nd) episode in a decades-long continuous eruption, which scientists say could last weeks, months, maybe even years.

The fiery lava fountains and surge of the Kīlauea volcano have so far resulted in 12 volcanic fissures tearing up Leilani Estates, with oozing waves of molten magma consuming anything that gets in its way.

While some locals interpret the destruction as Pele (the Hawaiian fire goddess) reclaiming her land, scientists have a different perspective on what’s going on – called ‘effusive fissure eruption’ – although it’s one that’s ultimately just as uncertain.

“We can’t really peer through the ground and see it exactly in all its details and intricacies,” NOAA volcanologist Bill Chadwick told NPR.

“It could last days, weeks, years. All that’s possible. It’s hard to say, unfortunately.”

The latest event occurred when the floor of the lava lake inside the volcano’s summit collapsed, which forced all its molten contents to be pushed throughout Kīlauea’s magma plumbing system hidden underground.

Scientists don’t ultimately know what made the reservoir give way, but when it did, the pressurised magma set off a series of earthquakes as it pushed itself through new rock channels, including a 6.9-quake that was Hawaii’s most powerful since 1975.

Continued here.

  1. Bruce Binion says:

    This eruption event in Hawaii will need to be studied for some time to recover and analyze all data leading up to it. There has been quite a bit of deep Earth activity going on for some time now, though I did not expect this to happen; I was concentrating on the Pacific Northwest and Yellowstone here in the US!

    A very partial list of areas to study from this would be:
    mantle based connections leading to the Pacific Plate,
    connections or plumes around the edges of the Pacific Plate,
    differences in Earth magnetic reconnection events in early April verses a “normal” series of solar wind storms,
    addition of seismic, magnetic, and GPS observatories to receive real-time updates based on what was learned from Hawaii.

    This is an excellent opportunity to develop new technology and understandings for earthquake and deep Earth analysis!

  2. p.g.sharrow says:

    Watch this simulation of the area in question!

    This already started in 2000 and is getting worse. The present “New outburst” is Kilauea dumping it’s lava into the spreading crack, The “Pink” red lava of the outburst was old wet decomposed volcanic rock of the crack remelting and being pushed out ahead of the new lava from the Kilauea vent lake.The people evacuated from the effected area are being moved down slope to a community on the coast! What the ####! If this moves sloooowly there would be time. If a fast slip happens I could be BAD for everyone on the Pacific Rim. A 100ft tsunami at Long Beach.California! …pg

  3. oldbrew says:

    Without volcanoes there would be no Hawaii.


  4. Bruce Binion says:

    I have been thankful and impressed that with all the activity around the rim on this event that no one has lost life. It is clear this has been going on for a long, long time. That which is feeding Kilauea’s magma source seems to be coming from a long way off. Hopefully, we can learn that it will continue to move slowly as before and show its’ network of feeder(s) a bit better.

  5. oldbrew says:

    Volcano erupts at end of man’s garden [video]

    Hawaii resident Keith Brock had a surprise when he returned home after fleeing the Kilauea volcano eruption.
    – – –
    Indonesia’s most active volcano erupts, spews ash into sky
    May 11, 2018

    Indonesia’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi, erupted early Friday, spewing sand and pyroclastic material and sending an ash column as high as 5,500 meters (18,045 feet) into the sky.

    The sudden eruption was accompanied by a rumbling sound with medium to strong pressure, Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

    People living within 5 kilometers (3.11 miles) of the crater evacuated to barracks set up for the displaced or left for other safe places.

    There were no immediate reports of casualties.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2018-05-indonesia-volcano-erupts-spews-ash.html

  6. dennisambler says:

    Kilauea and Mauna Loa are connected deep down apparently, seems a strange place to monitor CO2:


    In the 19th century, Mauna Loa was the most active volcano in the world. Today, Kilauea is the star.
    Mauna Loa flows are the hare to the Kilauea flows’ tortoise. The latter can take two to three weeks to reach the ocean, whereas it took the Mauna Loa flows from a massive 1950 eruption just 3.5 hours to travel a similar distance.


    A new study, which appears in the November (2012) issue of Nature Geoscience, finds that a deep connection about 50 miles below Earth’s surface can explain the enigmatic behavior of two of the world’s most notable volcanoes, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa and Kilauea.

    Kilauea and Mauna Loa are among the planet’s most studied and best-instrumented volcanoes and have been actively monitored by scientists at USGS’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) since 1912. Kilauea has erupted 48 times on HVO’s watch, with a nearly continuous flank eruption since 1983. Mauna Loa has erupted 12 times in the same period, most recently in 1984.

  7. oldbrew says:

    ‘seems a strange place to monitor CO2’

    It’s OK, they make adjustments for the local conditions 😎

    Aka ‘calibration’…

  8. oldbrew says:

    Hawaii volcano could be building up to big eruption: scientists
    May 11, 2018

    A Hawaii volcano that has been oozing lava and burping steam for days may be gearing up for a huge eruption, scientists have warned, prompting the closure of Volcanoes National Park on Friday.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2018-05-hawaii-volcano-big-eruption-scientists.html

  9. Bruckner8 says:

    …or it could stop in its tracks, and do nothing for another 100,000 years. Prediction, IMO, is a non-story, but it sells to predict calamity, I get it.

  10. ren says:

    May 17 will be an increase in volcanic activity.

  11. ren says:

    However, the volcano observatory now warns that as the magma column in the summit reservoir connecting to the lava lake continues to drain and drop, the risk of potentially large explosions increases. This will be especially true if the surface of the magma column drops beneath the ground water table under the caldera floor, which would allow water to seep into the hot conduit, and likely trigger violent steam-driven (phreatic) explosions, perhaps similar to those observed in 1924, when violent phreatic activity destroyed the pre-1924 lava lake and excavated the Halema’uma’u crater as it was known after 1924.

  12. ren says:

    Volcanic unrest in the lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano continues. While no lava has been emitted from any of the 15 fissure vents since May 9, earthquake activity, ground deformation, and continuing high emission rates of sulphur dioxide indicate additional outbreaks of lava are likely. The location of future outbreaks is not known with certainty, but could include areas both uprift (southwest) and downrift (northeast) of the existing fissures, or resumption of activity at existing fissures. Communities downslope of these fissures could be at risk from lava inundation.

  13. oldbrew says:

    ren – your 15 fissures have already become 18.
    – – –
    A new fissure emitting steam and lava spatter spurred Hawaii officials to call for more evacuations on Sunday as residents braced for an expected eruption from the Kilauea volcano.

    The Hawaii County Civil Defense issued an alert that an 18th fissure was discovered along a road west of a major highway on the Big Island. Residents on that road were being told to evacuate, and two nearby community centers were serving as shelters for people and pets.

    Popping, exploding and sloshing sounds could be heard from the fissure as far as 1,500 yards (1,400 meters) away.

    The fissures, ground deformation and abundant volcanic gases indicate eruptions on the eastern flank of Kilauea are likely to continue.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2018-05-hawaii-volcano-lava-fissure-spurs.html

  14. oldbrew says:

    Hawaii’s Volcano Is Now Threatening a Geothermal Plant Full of Dangerous Chemicals
    Here’s what you need to know.

    14 MAY 2018

    Before dawn Thursday, PGV employees removed a large reserve of pentane – 60,000 gallons of highly flammable solvent used in the powering of turbines – because of fears that it could leak and ignite.

    PGV officials and those of its parent company, Reno, Nevada-based Ormat Technologies, did not respond to requests for comment.
    . . .
    The county government has been aware of residents’ complaints and has run a decades-long Geothermal Relocation Program to help those who live near the plant move away.


  15. oldbrew says:

    Hawaii’s Volcano Is Now Shooting ‘Ballistic Blocks’ And Causing Earthquakes
    Red alert.

    17 MAY 2018

    The Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii began causing earthquakes on Wednesday afternoon, after morning explosions of “ballistic blocks” three times larger than bowling balls.

    Earthquakes up to 4.4 magnitude have been measured after Kilauea’s caldera, one of its large craters, dropped 90cm causing nearby faults to move.


  16. oldbrew says:

    This is a big blast…

    Explosive Eruption Takes Place At Kilauea Volcano’s Summit

    Just now, at 0415 hours local time, a significant explosion at the summit of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano took place, creating a major plume of ash around 9,144 meters (roughly 30,000 feet) high.

    Information is still coming in, but no one appears to be in any immediate danger: Authorities have quickly explained that volcanological and National Park staffs have already been evacuated. The plume and ash fallout can be seen via the lone webcam in the area.

    The latest advisory from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) explains that the explosion from the Overlook vent within Halema’uma’u crater created the sizeable ash column that drifted northeast.

    “Continued emissions from the crater are reaching as high as 12,000 feet [about 3,670 meters],” it explains, adding that “at any time, activity may again become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent.”


  17. oldbrew says:

    This Thursday, May 17, 2018, aerial image released by the U.S. Geological Survey, shows a view of ground cracks on Pohoiki Road during an overflight of the eruptive fissure area at about 7:00 a.m. HST near Pahoa, Hawaii. Cracks continued to open and widen, some with horizontal and vertical offsets, in the area during the past 24 hours. These cracks are caused by the underlying intrusion of magma into the lower East Rift Zone in the Big Island of Hawaii. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP) [bold added]

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2018-05-coats-gritty-ash-fall-erupting.html

  18. p.g.sharrow says:

    That “slump” has created a crack or void that is filling with melt and magma from the main vent. As soon as the voids are filled and the main vent begins to refill, it will hydraulic the crack and push or lift the top of the slump. There will be quake swarms as the slump starts to travel. This is a huge train and will take time to get it rolling. Look for increased elevation of lava fountains at the cracks as a first warning of the voids being full, the main vent beginning eruption out burst as it refills.
    I would be monitoring deformation just below that fault or fracture line for both linear and elevation changes.
    This may be a false start or might become a Pacific coast disaster of massive proportions. This could take a few days or millennia if the magma chamber fails to refill before cooling freezes the intrusion and temporarily locks the slip. I fear the worst…
    The drain of the central valley, the Sacramento River traverses a narrow defile through the Coast Range so there would be little flooding into the Central Valley. The Narrows of the Golden Gate would limit flooding within the bay, but the coastal flooding would make the Japan tsunami look like a tide surge. There is Geological evidence of 200 ft Tsunami Waves all up and down the Pacific Coast.
    I just talked to a friend that gathers interesting information. There are psychic indications of some major disaster, financial/physical, around September.. .pg

  19. oldbrew says:

    What do vulcanologists expect Kilauea to do next?

    The fact that there are still small earthquakes happening, and that there are still ground deformations, tells us that there’s still magma being supplied to the Lower East rift zone. So we don’t expect this eruption to finish anytime soon. The other thing that we do is we look for past patterns to see if we can see similarities as to what the volcano might do next—so the past eruptions have happened in the Puna area. One of them lasted several weeks. The other one lasted a couple of months. So we were sort of thinking that that might be a reasonable timescale. But at the same time, we’ve seen eruptions that have lasted just a couple of days up to the Puʻu ʻŌʻō eruption, which is halfway up the rift zone, that has lasted for 35 years. So it’s definitely not an exact science.


  20. Bruce Binion says:

    Oldbrew, if you or others know of real-time elevation data that can be used to accurately look at changes, I would sure appreciate the help. I have not run across anything in my years of study but then I didn’t necessarily care, that was somone elses task.

    This operation in Hawaii could be seen in the days leading up to it. When it hit I was not that surprised though I expected it not to be in Hawaii, more along the west coast of the US. Now it seems the stresses within the crust have been relieved somewhat, around the world. With the addition of elevation data, changes of less than 2 mm, perhaps some idea of deep Earth flow could be made.

    Definitely, since a couple of weeks after the eruption, normal earthquake triggers around the world have reduced and in many cases ceased. There is a lot to learn from this event!

  21. oldbrew says:

    Bruce B: have you tried here?


    Overview 8/5/18 — Kilauea Volcano: Facts About the 30-Year Eruption

  22. Bruce Binion says:

    Thank you very much Oldbrew! In the LiveScience article, the discussion of two formation theories is good. They are theories and though close do not necessarily fit with the earthquake activity leading up to the eruption nor that which has happened since. That is why we have theories!

    It doesn’t look like a single plume, probably multiple vents from afar leading to a few plumes beneath the island. I assume it will take quite a while to determine how much if any the Pacific Plate has moved during this time. If we had very accurate elevation measurement along with strain measurement covering many areas, we would be able to build additional theories for future events.
    Thanks again!