Hawaii's Kilauea volcano explodes into eruption

Red hot lava spatter into a copse of trees instantly setting them alight

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The US Geological Survey had warned that an explosive eruption at Kilauea was becoming more likely as the volcano's lava lake was lowering.

"At any time, activity may again become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent", the USGS said. "It's not going to be the only one".

Michelle Coombes said the eruption had temporarily relieved some pressure in the volcano but there may be more, larger powerful events.

"Just a little while ago we had something that sounded like thunder", Hoyt said.

Magno said 18,000 masks that protect from particulates like ash were given out Thursday. On May 10, HVO geologists said that as Halema'uma'u drained further, there was a risk it could intersect with the water table underground, and heat that groundwater. This may be a potential precursor of the Big One, when boulders are expected to fly.

This is because Kilauea is a so-called shield volcano, which is typically broader in shape and has lava that is relatively fluid.

Kilauea is one of five active volcanoes on the island of Hawaii. Due to elevated sulfur dioxide levels in the area, local schools are also closed, Hawaii County Civil Defense said.

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But a massive explosion in 1790 killed hundreds of people hit by molten volcanic debris and steam. On the other hand, stratovolcanoes - which include Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines and Mount St. Helens in Washington State - are usually taller and have more viscous lava flows with trapped gas that can generate volatile explosions.

The nightmare began on May 3, when the volcano first went off.

The volcano has been violently erupting since the beginning of the month, its deadly lava spreading into residential areas.

The masks do not protect against sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that is still seeping from 21 fissures caused by volcanic activity.

But phreatic eruptions can still pose a deadly threat to anyone near the eruptive vent - and they are extremely hard to forecast, Poland said.

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.

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

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