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Home / Science / The recent eruption of Kilauea was the largest in two centuries, scientists confirm

The recent eruption of Kilauea was the largest in two centuries, scientists confirm



The eruption in the lower eastern ditch zone of Kilauea.
Photo: US Geological Survey (AP)

It has been over three months since fresh lava has emerged from the Kilauea Volcano and the eruption that has turned the southeast of Hawaii into a Tierra del Fuego has cleared of the Headlines withdrawn. For scientists with the Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO) of the US Geological Survey, the story is far from over.

These researchers are beginning to package the collection of geophysical, geochemical and geological data from the eruption. But you can now definitely say that Kilauea's flank outbreak in 2018 was the biggest in at least 200 years. In about four months, the volcano spilled at least 0.2 cubic kilometers of lava over an area of ​​13.7 square kilometers – that is over 300,000 pools of molten rock of Olympic size – that changes the landscape and more than a square mile added by new land the coast.

These are just some of the key conclusions of a synthetic paper published today in Science. The dramatic sequence of events that took place during the eruption – including only the eighth so-called caldera collapse scientists have observed on every volcano on earth since 1900 – gave researchers an unprecedented opportunity to answer basic geological questions and our prediction tools future dangers to improve outbreaks.

The action in Kilauea began in early May, when an overflowing lava lake on the summit of the volcano quickly ran off and lost hundreds of feet within a few days. As a result, magma flowed southeast about 40 kilometers below the surface, where it broke new cracks and triggered new earthquakes in a region known as the Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ), which started on May 3 weeks as the freshly dumped summit caldera collapsed and triggered explosive eruptions of gas and ashes.

By the end of May, the eruption had concentrated around Fissure 8, which disintegrated lava fountains up to 80 meters (262 feet) into the air, feeding a network of canals that ultimately brought a trail of destruction to the sea. Hot, fresh lava flowed on until the 4th of August, when things were turned off quite abruptly. At the beginning of December, LERZ had not seen any fresh lava for three months, which means that the outbreak is over for all intents and purposes.

Thanks to the scientific tools that HVO had already deployed around Kilauea, the additional resources of the scientists were able. When the eruption accelerated, researchers have developed a pretty good picture of how magma works through the system and they were better able to limit how much molten rock is stored there. However, when USGS volcanologist and study co-author Mike Poland told Earther, there are still big unanswered questions, including what triggered the outbreak and why he stopped so suddenly.

Poland explained the outbreak began to look like many other events in Kilauea's recent history. The pressure building on the Pu'u & # 39; ō lowers the summit. In recent decades, inflation in Pu'new New has caused new lava outbreaks in the region. But this time he said, "There has been a break in this deeper part of the plumbing system," which allowed much more magma to move down into the LERZ.

Why this deep break occurred, we still have not done. You can not know that, and in the end, it can be hard to make final conclusions without using comparable events for comparison. The mystery of why Kilauea was shut down virtually overnight is perhaps even more palpable in the opinion of Poland if researchers combine all the data collected during the outbreak with models of fluid flow.

"This is one of the best monitored outbreaks in the world And we still could not say what it would do," volcanologist Janine Krippner told Earther, pointing to the abrupt conclusion of the outbreak. "That says nothing about the lack of expertise – it says all about the complexity of the volcanic system [the]."

And there are other puzzles to solve, including the causes of the explosive eruptions that shook the summit crater from May. At a press conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, DC, USGS volcanologist Kyle said Anderson argues that the original model of the scientists' explosions – as events driven by interactions between magma and groundwater – is not supported by the new data.

Poland said that even if Kilauea stays calm for the next 20 years, there will be no shortage of things for scientists to puzzle over. In addition to investigating all data collected during the outbreak, HVO researchers now have a rare opportunity to see the volcano's magma system after massive bleeding.

"It's a cornucopia of possibilities," said Poland. "There will be dozens of new things to come out of it."

Krippner, who was not involved in the new newspaper, repeated the mood of Poland. "I think there will be several lifetimes for this data," she said.


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