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Volcano Update

If it happened yesterday, it can happen tomorrow

We’ve learned a lot about Kilauea’s explosive history in the past 15 years. Once thought to be rare, explosive eruptions from the volcano’s summit are instead frequent and clustered into periods lasting several centuries. For example, between 1500 and the late 1700s, Kilauea’s eruptions were almost always explosive. We can be thankful that Kilauea is in a quiet period now, but we shouldn’t have an ostrich mentality about the future. If it happened yesterday, it can happen tomorrow.

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The 1855-56 Mauna Loa flow nearly devastated Hilo

On the evening of Aug. 11, 1855, Mauna Loa erupted from a location described as 1,000 to 2,000 feet below the summit of the volcano. This was the sixth eruption of Mauna Loa, and the second to send a lava flow advancing toward Hilo, since the Waiakea Mission Station — the East Hawaii base for Protestant missionaries — was established in Hilo in 1824.

Conference features wet volcanoes workshop

The recent anniversary of Kilauea’s May 1924 explosive summit eruptions reminds us of the sometimes violent interactions that occur when relatively cool water near the Earth’s surface comes into contact with much hotter magmatic material found at depth. As chronicled in the May 8 Volcano Watch, and at several recent public presentations, even relatively small, steam-driven eruptions like those of 1924 can affect people who live on and near active volcanoes.

Kilauea was jumping and rocks were flying 90 years ago

Ninety years ago this month, Kilauea was exploding. For some 20 days starting May 11, 1924, more than 50 explosive bursts, each lasting a few minutes or less, spread ash across the eastern third of the island, from Hilo to Makuu to beyond Pahala. Blocks weighing up to 12 tons fell around Halemaumau. Truman Taylor, a young accountant from Pahala, was killed by a falling rock near today’s Halemaumau parking lot, and others, including the national park superintendent, suffered minor injuries. It was a month very different from any since.