Hawaii volcano eruption holds clues to predicting similar events elsewhere

This view is nearly due north of the Halema‘uma‘u plume. Click to enlarge

This view is nearly due north of the Halema‘uma‘u plume. Click to enlarge

"The last time the volcano near the summit was in the same condition as now was in 1924 and in that year, we had about a two-week period of large explosive eruptions out of the summit", he said.

Cameras in the area show robust billows of smoke as well as massive amounts of ash falling to the ground.

Staff from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park were evacuated and officials warned residents in the path of the ash plume to shelter in place.

Anyone with respiratory difficulties, such as asthma or emphysema, should limit exposure to the ash, Green said.

"Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are working around the clock to provide critical, up-to-date information to keep Hawaii Island residents safe", Hirono said in a written statement about the legislation that passed Thursday.

A day earlier, "ballistic blocks" shot from Kilauea's same crater, according to USGS, which says it is the first time such an event has been seen at the Hawaiian volcano in almost a century.

Toby Hazel, who lives in Pahoa, near the mountain, said she heard "a lot of booming sounds".

"These reflect the most energetic explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven explosive activity", the park service said Wednesday, citing U.S. Geological Survey data.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. said this morning that a portion of Leilani Estates and all of Lanipuna Gardens has been designated as a no-entry zone for its crews.

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"I think it's going to be a series of explosions similar to the one that happened this morning, and that's based on what happened in 1924, which is really our only analog", he said of the almost century old event, which lasted 2-1/2 weeks and killed one person who was hit by a "ballistic block".

Recent explosions have been steam-driven, occurring when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma, lava, hot rocks or new volcanic deposits, the USGS says. Several schools closed because of the risk of elevated levels of sulfur dioxide, a volcanic gas.

Coincidentally, Thursday's explosive event comes one day before the 94th anniversary of that death and on the 38th anniversary of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. "That depends on the local communities and how well their civil defense, or national guard, or police are attuned", he said.

An aviation red alert was in effect due to risks ash could be carried into aircraft routes and damage jet engines, USGS said.

Thursday's eruption sent ash about 30,000 feet above sea level.

Across the Big Island, home to 200,000 residents, people were encouraged to take caution driving, as ashfall can make roads slippery, and not go outdoors unless necessary.

An ash plume from the caldera was visible from her home about two miles away from the Halemaumau crater, but Ugalde said it appeared to be a smaller cloud than Tuesday's plume that shot ash some 12,000 feet into the air. Mr Poland said the explosion probably only lasted a few minutes.

Fenix Grange of the state Department of Health said 10 new air quality monitors have been installed "circling the rift areas".

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