Kilauea: Lava river flows rapidly from Fissure 8
Professor David Rothery was speaking after the United States Geological Survey (USGS)’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) confirmed details of a glow within Halemaumau crater at Kilauea’s summit, indicating an eruption was underway. Kilauea has been quiet since 2018, when an eruptive phase which began in March and lasted until August caused considerable damage in the south-east corner of Hawaii’s Big Island, destroying almost 700 homes and leaving thousands homeless.
Asked whether it was reasonable to conclude that a new phase of activity was underway, Prof Rothery, Prof of Planetary Geosciences at the Open University, told Express.co.uk: “Self-evidently yes.
“It is being well monitored by HVO, and people should listen to what they say.
“The eruption could be over in a day or go on for years.
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“If lava breaks out on the flanks the potential for the flows to cause damage depends on what lies downhill from the newly active vent.
“HVO is in constant communication with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as this situation evolves.
“The eruption is currently taking place entirely within the park.”
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The eruption was preceded by swarms of earthquakes.
An ash plume rising 30,000ft into the air then triggered a red aviation warning.
Dramatic pictures of the volcano’s summit are reminiscent of the scenes witnessed in 2018, when islanders were forced to contend with noxious fumes known as vog.
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A trail of lava also made its way to the ocean, reacting with water to produce another hazardous substance known as laze – essentially volcanic glass.
An HVO update published last night stated: “Due to the presence of the water lake at the summit of Kilauea and the potential for steam-driven explosions and related hazards, HVO elevated Kilauea’s volcano alert level to WARNING and its aviation color code to RED on December 20 as the progression of events was uncertain.
“The water lake at the summit of Kilauea has boiled away and an effusive eruption has commenced, with three vents in the wall of Halemaʻumaʻu crater generating lava flows that are contributing to a growing lava lake at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater.
“The eruption is currently confined to Halemaʻumaʻu crater.
“HVO has decreased Kilauea’s volcano alert level to WATCH and its aviation color code to ORANGE, reflecting the less-hazardous nature of the ongoing eruption.”
Speaking at the height of the 2018 eruption, Harry Kim, who was at the time Mayor of Big Island, told Express.co.uk: “Some of your readers might think this is a common occurrence but this is unprecedented.
“We are going through something on Big Island which no living person has ever gone through before.
“One of the things about this kind of emergency is that it is not like a tsunami, or an earthquake, where you can say when it is over.
“This situation is unique – there is not a scientist alive who would dare make a prediction about when it is going to end.”
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