Volcano explosion won't be deadly if people stay out of park

12 May, 2018, 21:26 | Author: Mable Gonzales
  • At Kīlauea when the lava column drops below the water table groundwater may come into contact with with magma or hot rocks causing violent steam explosions

Dozens of tremors rattled residents on Hawaii's Big Island as molten rock from the Kilauea volcano flowed under an area where homes have already been destroyed by fiery lava geysers. Now there's a new threat on the horizon: a violent explosion.

Travel industry executives note most of the Big Island is free of eruption threats from Kilauea, which began spurting lava into a residential neighbourhood last week. Rather it experiences effusive eruptions, where magma moves along rifts below the surface before rising and pushing up through fissures in the earth.

A similar 1924 explosion threw pulverized rock, ash and steam as high as 5.4 miles into the sky, (9 kilometers) for a couple of weeks.

The problem is the lava lake at the summit of Kilauea is draining fast, about 6.5 feet per hour, Mandeville said.

There is also concern that Kilauea volcano could soon send boulders and ash shooting out of its summit crater.

Geologists are warning a possible explosion at the summit of Kilauea could be the largest in almost 100 years, hurling boulders the size of refridgerators.

Officials with the agency wouldn't estimate the likelihood of such an explosion, but called it a "distinct possibility". That kind of explosive eruption was last displayed by the volcano almost a century ago.

"What we've already been seeing is that chunks of the surrounding vents are just dropping off into the lava and that's why we're getting these small explosions", said Jessica Johnson, a volcanologist at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

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Kilauea has a history of phreatomagmatic explosions. Scientists don't know how long after that an explosion could occur.

As a result of that event, the lava lake that once existed there disappeared, though one returned in 2009. Lava is now covering more than 117 acres of land on the Big Island.

"We can't really peer through the ground and see it exactly in all its details and intricacies", Bill Chadwick, a volcanologist at NOAA, told NPR. "We don't know what's going on underground".

The threat of risky volcanic activity in Hawaii could continue for weeks and violent explosions could occur with "very little warning", the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory cautioned Wednesday. Smigelski-Theiss says she's anxious potential flight disruptions would strand them on the island.

The volcano, which has been spitting and sputtering lava for a week, has destroyed more than two dozen homes and threatened a geothermal plant. When the water hits the lava, it also steams.

"We've got all the warning signs we need", said Steve Brantley, the deputy scientist-in-charge for the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory HVO, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.

Scientists said Wednesday the risks of an explosive summit eruption will rise in coming weeks as magma drains down the flank of the volcano.

"It's just awful. You can't breathe in there", said evacuated resident Robynn Stagg, 58, who drove through the thick, orange sulfur dioxide haze earlier this week in a failed attempt to check on her home.

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