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Larger Steam Driven Explosions Possible at Kīlauea Volcano

May 17, 2018, 9:03 AM HST · Updated May 17, 9:15 AM
Wendy Osher · 4 Comments
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At 11:05 a.m. HST on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Photograph from the Jaggar Museum, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, captures an ash plume rising from the Overlook crater. Ash falling from the plume can be seen just to the right side (and below) the plume. PC: US Geological Survey. PC: File USGS 5.15.18

Authorities with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say the steam explosion this morning, is the biggest so far and is consistent with what scientists had anticipated.

The explosive eruption reported at around 4 a.m. on Thursday, May 17, 2018, was relatively ‘short-lived’ and sent ash as high as 30,000 feet into the atmosphere.

Additional, similar or larger events are possible as interactions between ground water and lava continue, according to USGS Geologist, Michelle Coombs.

Scientists note that pressure is starting to build up again, but very slowly.

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During a press conference this morning, authorities reflected upon the eruptive activity in 1924, saying it involved a series of explosions. Scientists say they are “in it for the long haul” and anticipate more steam explosions coming from the summit area.

Panorama of Kīlauea Caldera from HVO Observation Tower [KIcam]
Last Updated 2018-05-17 06:10:06 (HST). This image is from a research camera mounted in the observation tower at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The camera is looking SSE towards the active vent in Halemaʻumaʻu, 1.9 km (1.2 miles) from the webcam. For scale, Halemaʻumaʻu is approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) across and about 85 m (~280 ft) deep. PC: US Geological Survey.

Meantime, the Department of Health installed 10 new air monitors. Readings this morning indicated increasing levels of sulfur dioxide.

The wind is carrying the plume toward the southeast. The National Weather Service has issued an Ashfall Advisory, which has been extended until 6 p.m. HST today. If additional large explosions occur, winds aloft could push the resulting ash to communities of lower Puna such as Pāhoa and Kapoho, south to the shoreline.

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According to the National Weather Service, “Web cameras and reports from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory at Kīlauea Volcano Summit indicate occasional bursts of volcanic ash emanating from Halemaʻumaʻu Crater (19.4N 155.3W). These bursts may be brief and may occur at multiple times. Low and midlevel winds may direct the ash across portions of Kau, Puna, and North and South Hilo Districts up to 10,000 feet. In the event of a more significant eruption, an Ashfall Advisory or Warning may be necessary.”

Due to elevated sulfur dioxide (S0 2 ) levels, several area schools are closed today including the Pāhoa High, Intermediate, and Elementary School Complex, Keonepoko Elementary, Hawaiʻi Academy of Arts and Science, the Volcano School of Arts and Science, and Kindergarten to 4th grade classes are cancelled today at Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu iki.

 

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 15 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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