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Hawaii volcano is stirring

Earthquakes in and near Hawaii’s active volcano are signs it is stirring things up. Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is always active but sometimes you can’t see much. Over the past week, however, there have been several earthquakes – four earthquakes were h3 enough to be located within the Kilauea volcano, three beneath the south caldera and one on the south flank faults.

Also this week, the rim of the vent collapsed into the lava lake inside the crater. Rocks could be heard hitting the hot lava from the visitor center nearby. “The churning lava lake within the summit vent also produced a sound likened to crashing waves,” according to the USGS. Cars in the visitor center parking lot were covered with a light dusting of ash.

Lava is flowing from two spots slowly filling the east part of the crater. The lava continues to threaten homes in the Kalapana Gardens subpision area. The eastern edge of the lava flow is about half a mile from the road, according to the USGS. The agency warns that any structure within the flow area could be destroyed within 24 hours. Areas near the vents can erupt or collapse without warning.

Hawaii Vacation packages often incude a trip to the the volcano but be advised the increase in activity means a decrease in air quality. Sulfur dioxide emission rates are elevated and small bits of “fresh spatter” blow down wind. Potentially-lethal concentrations of sulfur dioxide gas are present downwind of the vent areas.

When lava and hot rocks hit the sea, they can cause large scalding waves. The USGS warns that “the gas/steam plume produced by the lava entering the ocean contains fine lava fragments and acid gases and droplets that can be hazardous to human health.”

While the lava flows are stunning, the best view may be from a distance. The USGS posts images and videos regularly from remote camera locations — all the beauty, none of the smog.

Photo: United States Geological Service

Posted by: Bruce Fisher on Feb 19, 2011