Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted explosively early Thursday, tossing boulders hundreds of feet and sending a plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the predawn sky.
A webcam at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory caught the aftermath of the short-lived eruption on film: an onslaught of wet and dusty ash raining down on a darkened landscape. From the summit of Mauna Loa volcano, 20 miles away, cameras photographed an anvil-shaped plume billowing on the horizon…
“This is the sort of explosive activity that was anticipated,” said USGS geophysicist Mike Poland, who was based at Kilauea from 2005 to 2015. “It’s not going to be the only one. Very likely there will be additional events.”
The explosion today is believed to be driven by steam:
As the molten rock dropped below the level of the water table, it’s likely that water in the surrounding rock began pouring into the vacated chamber — much the way water rushes to fill a recently dug well, said Charlotte Rowe, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The water would then flash into steam, “and steam as we know is a very powerful source of energy, a very powerful propellant,” Rowe said.
The Associated Press reports that locals living near the summit didn’t even hear the explosion:
Epic Lava tour operator John Tarson is an early-riser and said he only learned about the eruption because he received an alert on his phone…
Robert Hughes owns the Aloha Junction Bed and Breakfast, about a mile and a half from the crater. He said he did not hear anything either and is in an area that did not get any ash…
“In the old days, people used to love to come see the volcano. They’d even take their little postcards, burn one corner in the lava flow, mail then off, stuff like that,” he said. “Now they’re acting like it’s all super-dangerous and everything, but it just kind oozes out.”
Meanwhile, lava keeps pouring from various fissures. Early this morning ABC News published this video from Puna, Hawaii which is east of the main crater:
Incredible resident video shows lava exploding from a fissure in Puna, Hawaii, as the threat of a strong, explosive eruption at the top of Kilauea volcano looms. https://t.co/I9R0cZaNqN pic.twitter.com/vvhGA3kHld
— ABC News (@ABC) May 17, 2018
The USGS is giving daily video updates from volcanologist Michelle Coombs. Here’s the one for today’s eruption. At the end of this clip there are some aerial shot of fissures the USGS is monitoring: