|Debris came rocketing out of Kilauea during the steam eruption on 17 May.Credit: USGS-HVO|
Topics: Geophysics, Earthquake, Research, Stochastic Modeling
After weeks of unleashing earthquakes and lava flows that have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has finally blown its top. Because Kilauea is one of the best-monitored volcanoes in the world, scientists hope that data on the event will help them to better predict when similar volcanoes are about to erupt.
“We’ll be working on this set of data for our careers,” says Michael Poland, a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey (USGS) Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington.
The USGS says that the eruption began at 4:15 am local time on 17 May, when the volcano sent a plume of ash and steam more than 9,100 metres into the air.
The many instruments on and around Kilauea were watching. The volcano bristles with equipment that continuously measures signs of geological activity, such as ground movement, lava chemistry and seismic vibrations.
The first hint of an impending eruption came with a series of earthquakes on 3 May. Soon after, fissures opened up in the ground as far as 40 kilometres away from the volcano’s rim — oozing lava that forced about 2,000 people to evacuate. The openings also depressurized the network of underground channels beneath Kilauea, including its lava chamber. As a result, the lava level within the volcano's crater quickly dropped by more than 30 metres. It was, Poland says, “like someone pulled the plug in a bathtub”.
Hawaii volcano eruption holds clues to predicting similar events elsewhere
Sara Reardon, Nature