All about Hawaii’s big volcanic eruption

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It’s been a tough start for 2018 for many Hawaiian residents. First, many people in this part of the world have experienced flooding rains. What was called “a historic torrent of rain” hit the island of Kauai with more than 2 feet of rain last month.

Then, as many of us have read about the erupting volcano, Kilauea, on the Big Island. The eruption began on May 3, followed by a massive earthquake registering 6.9 on May 4.

Last week, the national park around Hawaii’s erupting volcano was closed to visitors. Officials are fearing the volcano will have a bigger eruption and send a sizable amount of ash and boulders miles into the air. The boulders are estimated to be as heavy as 10 tons and could travel up to 120 miles per hour. It’s quite possible that if there is a bigger eruption, two of the main airports on the big island could close for the sake of safety.

Many of the towns on the Big Island may also be exposed to volcanic air pollution, also called vog, toxic gas, and acid rain as well. The town is Hilo, one of the largest on the island, is about 25 miles from Kilauea. Kona, the other big town, is located on the other side of the island.

With the recent eruption, fissures and lava flows have now extended beyond the park’s boundaries. According to the U.S. Geological survey, there are 16 new fissures that have appeared as of a few days ago, and more are likely. Gases from these fissures are estimated to be as hot as 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. President Trump has recently declared a major disaster in Hawaii.

With new lava outbreaks expected around the hard-hit Leilani Estates, more homes and other structures are expected to be destroyed. So far, there have been at least 35 structures burned and nearly 2,000 residents were forced to be evacuated.

Hawaii’s volcanic system is not a part of the “Ring of Fire” system of plate tectonic boundaries. The Ring of Fire extends over 25,000 miles and has resulted in the creation of the many large volcanoes, especially in the western U.S. — which are far more explosive than the volcanoes in Hawaii because the molten rock contains more of the mineral silica. This mineral makes gasses more difficult to escape, so the buildup results in more explosive eruptions.

Instead, the islands of Hawaii were created — and are still expanding — due to what is known as a “hot spot.” A hot spot is a large plume of hot, molten rock directly below the Earth’s crust. In a weak area of the crust, the hot rocks move upward through the upper levels of the crust to form volcanoes.

The Big Island is the youngest island. The hot spot doesn’t move, but the Earth’s crust does move over long periods of time. Therefore, the Hawaiian chain of islands are the result of the hot spot and the movement of the Pacific plate. Another hot spot that is well-known is the one that sits below Yellowstone National Park.

There are four active volcanoes on the Big Island. Kilauea is erupting now, but Mauna Loa has erupted over 30 times since the mid-1800s. If one is planning a trip to Hawaii, the other islands are not being threatened by this erupting volcano.

In terms of our local weather, we’ve had some very nice days, and more are on the way. However, there should be some showers and thunderstorms around the region around the middle of this week, and again toward the early-to-mid portion of next week. Cliff and I still see a drier and warmer weather pattern developing in June.

We should see more 80-degree temperatures this week, but when will we see our first 90-degree day? Don’t forget the contest at www.cdacontest.com to win gift cards from area restaurants and food servers.

•••

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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