Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nice Timing

Hawai'i Magazine (online) reports:

Hawaii’s still very active Kilauea volcano sends lava flow into Kalapana

by:Derek Paiva
posted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 at 01:01 PM

Current Kilauea lava flow covers portion of Highway 130 in Kalapana this week. Photo: USGS

HAWAII Magazine reader Beth Kowalski e-mailed us with a question about our lack of coverage of Kilauea Volcano activity in recent months:

Has activity at Kilauea volcano not been newsworthy lately? Your website used to write often in 2008 and 2009 about lava activity at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But the last story I found about it at was last October. I can read about Kilauea’s eruptions at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s website. But I liked how your website broke down the scientific news about the eruption into easy-to-understand articles and language. I know the volcano is still active, so what’s up?

Funny you should write us this week, Beth.

After several months of quiet, business-as-usual activity at the Big Island volcano, lava flows from Kilauea’s east rift zone Puu Oo vent this week came within a 100 or so yards of several homes in the Kalapana area for the first time in many years. Parts of the flow also covered sections of Highway 130 and 137, which once led to coastal viewing sites for Puu Oo lava entering the ocean.

Kalapana, you may remember, was the small Puna district town virtually destroyed by lava flows from Puu Oo vent between April 1990 and February 1991. Over 10 months, the devastating flows slowly moved through the heart of the town, taking with it homes, longtime businesses and invaluable archaeological sites. Gone forever when the flow finally came to a stop were the natural fresh water spring and swimming hole Queen’s Bath, Kaimu Bay and Black Sand Beach and much of the area's picturesque coastline.

According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s website this morning, the current lava flow affecting Kalapana was still advancing, albeit very slowly, over Highway 137, but had not yet destroyed any homes.

From the Volcano Observatory:
Activity Summary for past 24 hours: Kilauea eruptive activity continued at two locations. The summit eruptive vent within Halema`uma`u Crater hosted a crusted and circulating lava pond that produced red glow visible from the Jaggar Museum overnight. In the east rift zone, lava flowed from the TEB vent through tubes to supply active surface flows that have slowed their advance along highway 137. Sulfur dioxide emission rates from the summit and east rift zone vents remained elevated.
Sulfur Dioxide is a major component of The Big Island's (in)famous "VOG", or "Volcanic Smog." When SO2 levels get high enough, they start actively discouraging folks with breathing difficulty from travelling in the volcano area. (This is one case where "Feel the burn" has nothing to do with the results of a vigorous workout...)

We took a "Volcano and Lava Expedition" while visiting the Big Island two weeks ago--took the tour two weeks ago today, in fact--and I'll try and post some of our photos from it later.

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