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News: Top Stories

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Explodes Again

Newsweek logo Newsweek 6/13/2018 Nina Godlewski

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Video by CBS News

The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii is still sending lava flowing via channels that look like rivers on the island. The Hawaii Civil Defense Agency said there was a “large channelized flow” coming from the highly active Fissure 8 and making its way to Kapoho Bay, where the lava was entering the water.

Wednesday, in the early morning hours, there was a small explosion at the summit of the volcano. The explosion was expected to cause some ashfall downwind.

A live stream of the volcano, provided by the United States Geological Survey, was available on YouTube. The stream shows the summit of the volcano taken from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s observation tower. At night, there are no lights on the summit, so there isn’t much to see until dawn.

Tuesday’s Civil Defense message said that the health risks from the eruptions, as well as from the ocean entry of the lava, were still high. The Department of Health recommended that those in the area, specifically those with breathing problems, limit their time outside where they would be exposed to the emissions.

Gallery by photo services

The sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano can mix with the oxygen, water vapor and other gases in the atmosphere to cause a haze called “vog.” That vog is a health risk for those in the area and can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and throat.

Another term specific to volcanic eruptions is laze, the by-product of the lava reaching and reacting with the cool water of the ocean. A large laze plume formed where the lava is continuously entering the ocean at Kapoho, and that plume can change direction easily with the wind at any moment.

The lava haze is a mix of hydrochloric acid and steam, along with tiny particles of volcanic glass that are all produced when the flowing lava reaches the ocean. The laze can damage lung tissue and can also irritate the skin and eyes like vog can. Additionally, the area where the lava enters the ocean is hazardous because the reaction between the two can cause small explosions of debris.

On Tuesday, fountains of lava from Fissure 8 were reaching heights of 130 to 140 feet in the air, according to the USGS. That was also causing Pele’s hair (a type of volcanic glass) and other volcanic glass byproducts to fall downwind from the eruption and into the residential area of Leilani Estates.

Other fissures, 16 and 18, were erupting small amounts of lava over the past several days but that activity has stopped, the USGS said. There is no way to predict how long the current volcanic activity from Kilauea will last, a USGS spokesperson told Newsweek.

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