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New method offers improved monitoring of Kilauea

Kilauea Volcano, on Hawaii’s Big Island, has been erupting continuously since 1983, mostly releasing relatively slow-moving lava flows, although rare violent eruptions have occurred. Both explosive and nonexplosive eruptions pose risks to tourists, roughly 2.6 million of whom visit Kilauea annually, as well as to island residents whose safety and property have at times been put in jeopardy by flowing lava.

04 Oct 2017

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

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

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

Travels in Geology: Taking in Hawaii's Big Island

For a bit of money, visitors to Hawaii can indulge their touristy impulses with a single night of mai tais and luaus. But take on Hawaii’s geologic hallmarks, and you’ll embark on a low-cost safari that will last you all week.

26 Sep 2008