Sun, Jun 03, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Hawaii eruption enters new phase as silence falls

Reuters

Fissure 8 feeds lava into multiple flow lobes advancing to agricultural land in the vicinity of the Kapoho Volcano in Hawaii on Friday.

Photo: US Geological Survey-Reuters

As lava continued to pour vigorously from the ground through fissures at the foot of Kilauea Volcano, the month-old eruption on Hawaii’s Big Island has entered a new, seemingly calmer phase inside the summit crater, US government scientists said on Friday.

However, vulcanologists monitoring and measuring Kilauea’s every move during the past four weeks hastened to add that the latest change in the volcano’s behavior, while undoubtedly significant, leaves them uncertain about what will follow.

The summit crater has largely fallen quiet since Wednesday, US Geological Survey geophysicist Kyle Anderson told reporters.

The apparent reason, revealed in footage recorded by drone aircraft flown over the summit, is that tons of rocky material shaken loose from the inside walls of the crater vent have plugged up the bottom of the void, Anderson said.

What happens next is unknown.

“It’s possible that new explosions will blast through the rubble at the bottom of the vent, and these may or may not be larger than previous explosions,” he said. “It’s also possible that the vent could become permanently blocked, ending the explosions entirely.”

In any case, the volcano’s behavior ultimately hinges on the ebb and flow of huge rivers of magma.

The steady collapse of the crater’s inner walls, caused by magma draining out of the summit and oozing downslope under the volcano’s surface, has also greatly enlarged the mouth of the vent, which has grown in size from about 4.9 to 48.5 hectares, Anderson said.

At the same time, the Kilauea summit itself has sunken by at least 1.5m in elevation as the magma level continues to drop, exerting tremendous pressure on seismic faults to create numerous tremors in the immediate vicinity.

Although the summit crater of Kilauea has fallen silent for the moment, many of the two dozen volcanic fissures running through populated areas on its eastern flank continued to spout and ooze lava and toxic gases that prompted the evacuation of about 2,500 residents.

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