Saturday, December 4, 2021

After 36 years of continuous eruption, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has started a new phase

“I think we’re seeing a full swing” — U.S. Geological Survey

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has been in continuous eruption for more than 36 years and has posed serious threats to people and its neighboring communities. The latest is that it’s appearing to be reaching a new phase of sorts.

“I think we’re seeing a full swing,” said Janet Babb, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “If you look at the last six or eight years, there were really nice weeks here or there, but they were not really steady,” she said.

Residents have learned to be ready whenever lava starts to seep from fissures erupting from the crater and into the ocean. Meanwhile, lava has been flowing into ocean, and scientists have been concerned about the surf.

Pungent volcano fumes have long poisoned the air, and the USGS says there is more of it blowing north, giving travelers on the island more of an unpleasant smoky smell in the morning.

Hawaii Island has seen this cycle before, with its volcanoes erupting continuously and emitting “hundreds of hot rocks and millions of tons of ash and lava” for up to two years.

The most recent, and largest, eruption took place in 2006-07.

But scientists are still cautious as they study the current eruptions, and residents don’t need to panic, Babb said.

“To get really excited or nervous about a volcanic eruption, we really have to look at what’s happened in the past and then look to the future to make assessments and to make suggestions of what we may need to do to prepare,” she said.

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