Some Pele action

This isn’t really a project post, but some of you may be aware that Kilauea volcano here on the Big Island is having a bit of an eruption right now. Two weeks ago there was a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, the largest to hit the island since 1975. This was stronger than anything we ever felt in California. Then lava started pouring out of the ground in Kilauea’s lower east rift zone, in Puna. The eruption has slowly picked up pace and at this point there are spectacular lava fountains and literal rivers of lava going into the ocean. You can find countless videos on Youtube.

What I did not expect was that they would be visible from our house in Hilo! Tonight was a pretty clear night and off to the southeast is a bright, orange glow. While you can’t see the lava itself, the illuminated smoke from the three largest eruption sites is clearly visible. This is approximately 25 miles (40 km) away.

This is the Kilauea lava flow seen from our window in Hilo, captured using a 200mm lens.

There is no danger to Hilo from this flow, the topography is such that the lava will run southeast or at worst north from the eruption site. However, it’s pretty bad for the people in Puna. Even if only about 40 houses so far have been lost to the lava, there’s enough SO2 outgassing to make it pretty unhealthy to be anywhere in a pretty large radius, depending on how the wind blows, and several thousand people have been evacuated. The lava has also cut off two of the three roads by which you can get down to the ocean in that area, so there’s also a significant number of people that may be cut off.



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