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hawaii

Maui reef degradation linked to contamination in coastal groundwater

Submarine groundwater discharge — the flow of fresh and brackish groundwater from land to sea — can transport contaminants to coastal ecosystems. But little is known about the direct impacts of this process on marine communities. In a new study published in PLOS ONE, researchers examined links between land use, water quality and coral reef health at coastal sites around Maui, finding that anthropogenic contaminants delivered via submarine groundwater are a source of chronic stress to nearshore marine ecosystems.

31 Mar 2017

Kilauea increases asthma risk

Kilauea may be best known for its picturesque red lava flowing into the ocean, but new research presented this week at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver, Colo., suggests that locally, the volcano may be known for something more dangerous: asthma. The new study links gaseous eruptions from the Hawaiian volcano to increased asthma risk for those living downwind, especially children.

 
28 Sep 2016

Geologic Column: The notion of mantle plumes

EARTH’s feature on mantle plumes in the January/February issue reminded the author of his own evolving trip along the plate tectonic road.

01 Sep 2016

Mauna Loa's mysterious Ninole Hills were once a rift

Hawaii’s Nīnole Hills, jutting out from Mauna Loa’s southeast flank, are one of the most striking features on the Big Island, though their geologic origins have long been a mystery. A new study looking at gravity anomalies under the hills is revealing that the hills are part of an older rift system that predates the currently active Southwest Rift Zone. The seemingly sudden switch from one rift system to another may provide some clues as to how Mauna Loa grew to be the largest volcano on Earth. “A lot of different ideas have been proposed to explain how the Nīnole Hills were created,” says Jeff Zurek, a geophysicist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, and lead author of the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. It’s been suggested that the hills could be the remnants of an older summit of Mauna Loa, or its predecessor, Mohokea, or that faulting and landslides could have created the unusual topography of the hills, or that they could be from an older, inactive rift system.

11 Aug 2016

Kilauea eruptions could shift from mild to wild

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is famously effusive: Low-viscosity lava oozes out of the main caldera and two active rift zones along the southern shore of the Big Island. But scientists suspect that Kilauea’s eruptions haven’t always been so mild, and a new study is providing further evidence supporting that notion. In the past 2,500 years, at least two cycles of explosive eruptions lasting several centuries each have rocked the island. The switch from effusive back to explosive is likely to occur again, scientists say, but probably not anytime soon.
 

14 Oct 2014

Living in the shadow of Mauna Loa: A silent summit belies a volcano's forgotten fury

After 30 years, no one is quite sure when Hawaii’s Mauna Loa will erupt again. History warns us that the volcano’s current silence is anomalous, and the odds are good that it will reawaken within the next couple of decades. So geologists are already taking steps — upgrading their monitoring tools and talking with the public — to prepare for another eruption.

01 Sep 2014

Benchmarks: July 1, 1912: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officially becomes the first of its kind in U.S.

Living on the fringe of an active volcano in Hawaii is a precarious venture. Because Hawaii’s shield volcanoes aren’t prone to explosive activity, you’re typically not threatened by violent eruptions such as would occur at Mount St. Helens, for example. On the other hand, the slow-moving, unpredictable lava flows can still overtake your home, even if it has avoided years of previous eruptions. 
 
02 Jul 2012

Kilauea's Explosive Past - and Future

The explosive history of Kilauea is not well known. Today, it’s renowned for lobes of slow-moving, calm lava, which ooze out of cracks in the flanks of the volcano, pour downslope and eventually flow into the sea, where the lava cools and gradually enlarges the island. But in the past, Kilauea has erupted violently — more often and for much longer periods than was previously thought. Now, researchers have learned that over the past 2,500 years, violent eruptive periods lasting centuries have alternated with periods of quiet flows. Once an explosive period has begun, conditions on the Big Island will be very different from those on which the past hazard assessment was based.

17 May 2012

Benchmarks: April 1, 1946: Hawaii tsunami ushers in a Pacific-wide warning system

On the morning of April 1, 1946, children were on their way to school in the small peninsula community of Laupahoehoe on the island of Hawaii (the Big Island). Curious about the fish that were flopping around in the sand on the beach, the students were too busy to notice the ocean sucking all the water out of the bay. Minutes later, a large wave — about 15 meters high — struck the peninsula and swept 16 children and five teachers out to sea.
 
01 Apr 2012

Danger in paradise: The hidden hazards of volcano geotourism

In November 2000, rangers at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park made a gruesome discovery. The bodies of a man and a woman, in an advanced state of decomposition, were found near the site where lava from the Kilauea eruption flows into the sea, sending up plumes of scalding white steam. The area, aptly named the Eruption Site, is littered with chunks of tephra, a glassy volcanic rock, which are formed and ejected violently into the air when the 2,000-degree-Celsius lava is quenched by seawater.

19 Mar 2012

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