Published: Sat, May 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Scientists: Explosive eruption risk rises for Hawaii volcano

Scientists: Explosive eruption risk rises for Hawaii volcano

Scientists said Wednesday the risks of an explosive summit eruption will rise in coming weeks as magma drains down the flank of the volcano toward the area lava started erupting from fissures in a residential neighborhood last week.

Kilauea, the volcano that's been erupting on the Island of Hawaii over the past week, has already forced the evacuation of almost 2,000 people and the destruction of more than two dozen homes. "We don't know what's going on underground".

It sits on the edge of Leilani Estates, one of the areas where almost 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate as Kilauea continues to spew lava.

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a major disaster existed on the Big Island.

The pant sits on the edge of Leilani Estates, one of the areas where almost 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate as Kilauea spewed lava.

"One of the things I love about Kilauea is that it's so well-monitored and so well-studied - the more we know, the more we realize we don't know", she said.

The national park around Hawaii's Kilauea was off-limits to visitors Friday for fear the volcano will blow its top in the coming days and hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air.

Local meteorologists said the change in prevailing winds could send Kilauea's volcanic smog, or vog, north-west to Maui and other islands in Hawaii.

Increased levels of sulfur dioxide gas could give rise to acid rain, though experts say it won't be risky.

APDiagram explains explosive eruptions of volcanoes
APDiagram explains explosive eruptions of volcanoes

Warnings that Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could erupt again are prompting people to rethink their vacation plans to visit the Big Island. No one lives in the immediate area of the summit.

"Because the lava intrusion is still active and earthquakes are still occurring, we still think there's a decent chance of new eruptive activity at the surface", Steven Brantley said. Volcano and other nearby communities may be showered by pea-sized fragments or dusted with nontoxic ash but they aren't expected to get hit by large boulders, she said.

While locals contend with lava and gas on the ground, explosions at Kilauea's summit, some 25 miles (40 km) to the west are dusting downwind communities with ash that is an irritant to eyes and breathing.

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant has about 50,000 gallons of pentane.

Authorities ordered two subdivisions in the area to evacuate last week.

In little more than a week, the top of the lava lake has gone from spilling over the crater to nearly 970 feet (295 meters) below the surface as of Thursday morning, Mandeville said.

"If it goes up, it will come down", said Charles Mandeville, volcano hazards coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey.

The small, aptly named town of Volcano, Hawaii, population 2,500, is about three miles from the summit. That kind of explosive eruption was last displayed by the volcano almost a century ago.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said a geothermal energy plant near the lava outbreak was accelerating its removal of stored flammable gas as a precaution.

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