A volcanologist tackles that and other burning questions about the Hawaii volcano
U.S. Geological Survey
Cracks open in the ground. Lava creeps across roads, swallowing cars and homes. Fountains of molten rock shoot up to 70 meters high, catching treetops on fire.
After a month of rumbling warning signs, Kilauea, Hawaii’s most active volcano, began a new phase of eruption last week. The volcano spewed clouds of steam and ash into the air on May 3, and lava gushed through several new rifts on the volcano’s eastern slope. Threatened by clouds of toxic sulfur dioxide–laden gas that also burst from the rifts, about 1,700 residents of a housing subdivision called Leilani Estates were forced to flee their homes, which sat directly in the path of the encroaching lava.
The event marks the 62nd eruption episode along Kilauea’s eastern flank, which is really part of an ongoing volcanic eruption that started in 1983. The volcano is one of six that formed Hawaii’s Big Island over the past million years. Mauna Loa is the largest and most central; Kilauea,