Kilauea’s Next Eruptions May Mirror a Big One in Its Past | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Kilauea’s Next Eruptions May Mirror a Big One in Its Past

This week fissure number 18 opened on the east flank of Hawaii’s rumbling Kilauea Volcano, another in the set of rift-zone fractures advancing toward the Pacific coast. Several miles westward, nestled in Kilauea’s summit caldera, Halema‘uma‘u pit crater is evolving toward a hazardous scenario that reminds volcanologists like myself of a giant blowout that happened there in 1924.

That year a long-lived deep lake of bubbling molten basalt lava, a very popular tourist attraction, unexpectedly began to drop downward until it was no longer visible. This lava had been pushing against the pit crater’s vertical walls, holding them up. Without it, rocks of pebble to boulder size began to tumble into the deepening hole. High-velocity jets of steam, along with sulfurous volcanic fumes and small gritty rock debris, began to blow out from the pit in May of that year. Despite the danger, tourists continued to visit the upwind side of the deepening crater until violent steam explosions began to eject rocks large enough to injure and kill people—at least one person died. The largest projectile was about six feet in diameter and still sits south of Halema‘uma‘u along the current Chain of Craters Road as a mute reminder of how an apparently tame summit crater can become violent even with no new lava in evidence.

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