"Explosive" Eruptions Now Possible at Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano

The Turrialba volcano spews smoke and ash in May 2016 in Cartago Costa Rica. Experts say it is the strongest eruption from the volcano in the past six years

If Hawaii's Kilauea volcano blows its top in the coming days or weeks, as experts fear, it could hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air, shutting down airline traffic and endangering lives in all directions, scientists said Thursday. Now there's a new threat on the horizon: a violent explosion.

Scientists believe lava that's been erupting is magma that's been stored in the ground since Kilauea volcano erupted 63 years ago. Rather it experiences effusive eruptions, where magma moves along rifts below the surface before rising and pushing up through fissures in the earth.

The pant sits on the edge of Leilani Estates, one of the areas where almost 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate as Kilauea spewed lava. The magma would heat the water and create steam that would push accumulated rocks out in an explosion. It is eventually released through an explosion, sending extremely hot steam, rocks, gases and volcanic ash forcibly upward. The observatory, which is part of the U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program, released a warning stating that the current conditions near and in the Kilauea volcano may provoke further explosions. Those types of big blowouts usually take place in stratovolcanoes, steep-sided, cone-shaped volcanoes where pressure builds up in a central vent until the mountain pops in a dramatic explosion.

"He said 'That lava's underneath your house, '" said Conda.

"It's like when you drop a Mentos into a bottle of Coke: it starts making bubbles". The resulting explosion can blast rock and ash for miles. It threw boulders as heavy as 12½ tonnes into the sky.

In little more than a week, the top of the lava lake has gone from spilling over the crater to nearly 970 feet (295 meters) below the surface as of Thursday morning, Mandeville said.

Over the past week, the Big Island has experienced more than 600 earthquakes - a sign that something is occurring deep beneath the volcano. "We really don't know for certain", he told reporters on a conference call.

Currently, dozens of people evacuated from Leilani Estates, where the USGS warns more fissures may open, still remain in shelters.

Stars shine above as a plume rises from the Halemaumau crater, illuminated by glow from the crater's lava lake, within the Kilauea volcano summit at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on May 9, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.

There are also further potential risks where lava has been erupting 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the crater in Leilani Estates.

If volcanologists can better understand Kilauea and underlying reasons for its seemingly unusual behaviour, Johnson said it could help them better understand other volcanoes. She said the eruption was Pele's way of correcting overpopulation of the island.

"It's just frightful. You can't breathe in there", said evacuated resident Robynn Stagg, 58, who drove through the thick, orange sulfur dioxide haze earlier this week in a failed attempt to check on her home.

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