Hawaii’s Kilauea is not the typical blow-the-top-off kind of volcano — it has been simmering and bubbling for about 35 years, sending super-hot lava spewing up through cracks in the ground, destroying everything in its path even miles from its summit.
- The volcano erupted on Thursday, local time
- It has created a series of small earthquakes
- Scientists are not sure where the next fissure will open
Awe-inspiring footage has demonstrated exactly what happens when lava meets car: slow-moving but certain destruction.
The lava, covered in a black crust, slowly flows towards a car stopped on the side of a Hawaiian road.
Flames erupt the moment the molten rock touches the vehicle.
It is just one recent example of the ruination the volcano has caused since lava started spewing out last Thursday, local time.
Scientists earlier this week said there has been a slight decrease in the pressure that forces lava to the surface, but it is likely a temporary lull.
Dennison University volcanologist Erik Klemetti said similar eruptions at Kilauea have simmered for years.
“It’s going to take some time before you can say for sure whether things are winding down,” he said.
Kilauea is the youngest and most active of the five volcanoes on the archipelago’s biggest island.
It has been erupting continuously since 1983, but not with violent ejections of lava into the sky.
Red ash rises from the Puu Oo vent on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano after a magnitude-5.0 earthquake strikes the Big Island on May 3. (AP: Kevan Kamibayashi)
A couple of miles below Kilauea is a constantly-fed “hot spot” of molten rock from deep inside Earth.
It needs to find a way out.
And rather than exploding, at Kilauea “you get an oozing of lava at the surface,” explains US Geological Survey volcano hazards coordinator Charles Mandeville.
The molten rock is called magma when it is underground; when it reaches the surface, it is called lava.
The lava flows out through cracks in the ground, usually within the confines at the national park that surrounds Kilauea.
But this time the eruptions are destroying homes.
“This kind of eruption that is occurring now is very normal for this volcano,” said volcanologist Janine Krippner of Concord University.
“It’s really that it’s just impacting people.”
Evacuated residents hold a prayer before the start of a community meeting. (AP: Marco Garcia)
The past week or so has seen “a major readjustment with the volcano’s plumbing system,” Mr Mandeville said.
On April 30, scientists got their first sign something was up.
The floor of the summit’s lava pool had a “catastrophic failure,” forcing the magma east, looking for ways out — that created a series of small earthquakes.
The magma escaped in “fire fountains” of lava shooting as high as 70 meters out of cracks, Mr Mandeville said.
The first one of those happened last Thursday local time, followed by at least nine more since then.
“You don’t know where the next fissure is going to open up,” he said.