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Kilauea: Still going strong 30 years later


Kevan Karanjia, Staff Writer
January 6, 2013 — Hawaii has many active volcano's but arguably none has impressed onlookers more than the Kilauea, which marked 30-years since its first eruption on Thursday.


The Pu'u 'O'o eruption began in the remote rain forest of the eastern rift zone after pressure created fissures in the ground
The Pu'u 'O'o eruption began in the remote rain forest of the eastern rift zone after pressure created fissures in the ground

On January 3rd, 1983 the silent volcano of Kilauea erupted, catching many by surprise. 

The pressure from rising gas and magma forced its way through layers of ancient lava, creating a fissure over 6 kilometres long on the volcano's east rift zone. 

They called the rising cone that was forming "Pu'u 'O'o" — which means "Hill of the 'O'o Bird" in Hawaiian — and for 30-years it has been spewing lava fountains, some almost 500 metres high. 

Kilauea is the longest-lived rift-zone eruption of the last two centuries and the constant release of lava has added 500 acres of land to the island. 

While the volcano has dazzled tourists, it has harmed some people, destroying 214 homes over the years. 

Last year, the last resident of the Royal Gardens sub-division was evicted by the volcano's lava flows. 

Hawaii local Jack Thompson's home was the final structure to be taken by the volcano.

Volcanic activity from Kilauea captured by NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite
Volcanic activity from Kilauea captured by NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite

Despite its dangers, Kilauea's regular activity has helped improve the knowledge of how volcanoes work. 

The U.S Geological Survey's Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO), which is now located at Kilauea's summit, can predict like floods, the path of lava flows. 

Researchers used radar and seismic signals to map and see changes in the ground above the volcano and noticed sinking and swelling at different times. 

They concluded that the pipes below Kilauea — which connect the Halema'uma'u and Pu'u 'O'o crater — sometimes act like dikes and at other times behave like pipes. 

Pressure variations between the two craters can now be tracked and this information can predict an eruption.

Despite what scientists now know, they still cannot predict when the volcano will die out, meaning Kilauea's fountains of lava may continue to shoot out for years to come. 

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