What you need to know about the volcanic eruptions going on in hawaii right now popular science gas efficient cars 2010


Volcanoes have created more than 80 percent of the planet’s surface. Currently, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kīlauea, hovers over a hotspot in the lithosphere, the portion that makes up the Earth’s crust and upper-most mantle, that’s responsible for the formation of the entire Hawaiian Island chain. Kīlauea has erupted continuously since 1983.

Last week, a new eruption sprouted in the Leilani Subdivision on the sprawling volcano’s southeast flank, with fissures popping up along a 2.5 mile stretch and lava covering 116 acres and claiming 36 structures. Here’s what you need to know about Kīlauea and the latest eruption. These particular eruptions are heavily monitored

Hawaii’s volcanoes are classified as “shield” volcanoes due to their gently sloping profile built up over time by a steady flow of lava. Unlike composite, conical-shaped volcanoes—Mt. St. Helens in the Pacific Northwest—shield volcanoes are characterized as effusive versus explosive. That means they do not generally erupt like an uncapped fire hydrant, throwing lava and rocks thousands of feet in the air and billowing unending clouds of ash the way the 2010 eruption in Iceland closed airspace across Europe. Many volcanoes are nearly impossible to forecast, but the shape and slow-moving behavior of Hawaii’s volcanoes make them some of the easiest and safest to study.

Until early May, Kīlauea’s activity was centered at two locations—at the summit’s 4,190-foot Halemaumau crater, located inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and at a lower elevation along the East Rift Zone known as PuuŌō vent. Things started to get interesting the last week of April when the lava lake at the summit rose and spilled over into Halemumau. Then, on Monday, April 30, the lava lake drained, as if someone pulled the plug in a bathtub.

Downslope, similar changes were underway at PuuŌō. Within hours seismometers picked up hundreds of shallow earthquakes migrating east—toward neighborhoods—and triggering Hawaii County Civil Defense to organize evacuation centers. The morning of May 3rd, a magnitude 5.0 earthquake rattled more nerves and caused the release of a short-lived pink plume of ash from PuuŌō. By that evening, a fissure of approximately 500 feet had sliced open the ground at Leilani Estates subdivision along the lower East Rift Zone, producing lava fountains and causing the mandatory evacuation of two residential subdivisions. Since then, 14 more fissures of varying size and duration have opened up, spattering lava and spewing sulfur dioxide gas to the sounds of crackles and pops. It’s more than just lava

Eruption temperatures can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, plenty hot enough to burn homes and forests to the ground. But even if lava isn’t marching down your street, potentially lethal rates of sulfur dioxide gas may be present up to a half-mile away from the eruption site. Then, there is the threat of earthquakes. On May 4, after a series of strengthening earthquakes, a magnitude 6.9 temblor—Hawaii’s strongest quake in more than 40 years—struck the south flank of Kīlauea. In fact, the rocking could be felt in Honolulu, a couple hundred miles away. There were secondary worries as well. Earthquakes can trigger deadly tsunamis—and generated mega-tsunamis in times before humans occupied these islands—but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center quickly issued a statement, saying, “No tsunami is expected. Repeat. No tsunami is expected. However…some areas may have experienced strong shaking.”