Now there's a new threat on the horizon: a violent explosion. That, in turn, could create high-pressure conditions which may spark explosive eruptions ejecting ballistic rocks of lava. Rather it experiences effusive eruptions, where magma moves along rifts below the surface before rising and pushing up through fissures in the earth. As of Thursday morning, no fissures were spewing lava, though gas emissions remain high. The database's catchall "indirect" category also includes transportation accidents related to the eruption, heart attacks suffered during strenuous clean-ups after eruptions, and all manner of random misadventures that occur around volcanoes even when they're not actively erupting, like falling into steam vents and being caught in a lava bench collapse.
"Due to decreasing tradewinds, residents are advised to monitor their sensitivity to increased levels of SO2", the text message sent at 9.22 a.m. said. Shield volcanoes rarely build up enough pressure to have catastrophic explosions though sometimes steam explosions like the ones predicted are possible.
Scientists fear that, as lava and superheated rocks meet the water table below ground, steam could accumulate and cause an explosion that hurls massive rocks into the sky. But volcanoes are notoriously unpredictable, as the U.S. Geological Survey emphasizes in its statement, "At this time, we cannot say with certainty that explosive activity will occur, how large the explosions could be, or how long such explosive activity could continue".
"It's like when you drop a Mentos into a bottle of Coke: it starts making bubbles".
"Smaller eruptions are more frequent and can have big impacts in the local area, but limited consequences on a larger scale".
Kilauea has a history of phreatomagmatic explosions. "It could be a couple of days, a couple of weeks".
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The first explosion at the summit in 1924 was neither seen nor heard. The trees in the photos are roughly 5 kilometres from Halemaumau. Previous information about ongoing events can be found in Big Island Now's "Volcano Blog" section. "We really don't know for certain", he told reporters on a conference call. "It's one of the best ways we can "see" what's going on".
Hawaii Volcano Observatory scientist Tina Neal says communities a mile or two away may be showered by pea-sized fragments or dusted with nontoxic ash.
Scientists said Wednesday the risks of an explosive summit eruption will rise in coming weeks as magma drains down the flank of the volcano.
While a volcanic eruption can be risky enough, there is also a chance for it to result in acid rain.
If volcanologists can better understand Kilauea and underlying reasons for its seemingly odd behaviour, Johnson said it could help them better understand other volcanoes. On May 1, cracks appeared in the volcano, and on May 3, a plume of pink smoke accompanied by lava emerged through a gash shooting dozens of feet into the air.
A day after a 15th volcanic fissure opened up in the Leilani Estates area on the big island, a pause in significant activity today. "We know it is a distinct possibility".