Sunday, 20 May, 2018

Kilauea volcano: Hawaiians warned of 'powerful' eruptions within hours

The eruption in 1924 USGSThe last time Kilauea saw a period of explosive activity was May 1924- 94 years ago this month
Charlie Simmons | 18 May, 2018, 15:49

The summit explosion of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano exploded around 4 o'clock Thursday morning.

It's one of five volcanoes that comprise the Big Island of Hawaii, and the only one now erupting.

The noxious gas, normally emitted at unsafe levels only from the volcano's Halemaumau Crater, was seeping at a greater rate from the fissures in Leilani Estates, a residential area of about four square miles in the Big Island's Puna district.

Scientists say earthquakes may shake loose rocks underground and open up new tunnels for lava to flow.

It was not the big blast scientists have been warning could come from the crater any time, and that threat - of an explosion that could produce flying boulders the size of cows - remained unchanged late Thursday.

Authorities warned residents of Big Island to shelter in place. Winds blowing a plume emanating from crater 30,000 feet in the air were mostly directing it away from people. "We may have additional larger, powerful events".

Hawaii's emergency management agency advised people in the area affected by ash to stay in their homes if possible.

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It's among the five volcanoes that form the Big Island, and it's the only one actively erupting.

"Tall but small", she said of Thursday's plume.

In May 1924, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported more than 50 explosive events over the course of two-and-a-half weeks at the volcano's summit.

An ash plume Wednesday rose roughly 12,000 feet into the air, and on Tuesday, the USGS issued a red alert, which means a major eruption is imminent or underway and ash could affect air traffic.

As the molten rock dropped below the level of the water table, it seems like, that the water in the surrounding rock started pouring into the vacated chamber - much the way water rushes to fill a recently dug well, said Charlotte Rowe, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. But this is not Kilauea's first massive eruption.

Although they just returned from Hawaii a few days ago, Satterwaite said the National Guard members are ready to return and help out if called upon.

In addition to monitoring the volcano's current activity, researchers are scouring data from Kīlauea's extensive monitoring network - of tiltmeters, seismometers, and ground and aerial gas detectors - in search of any changes that preceded Thursday's event.

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