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Kilauea: A Large or Small Volcano?

  |  Big Island: Weather and Nature

January is Volcano Awareness Month. Learn more at:

Hawaii Island volcanoes

Colors ranging from red to purple indicate the water depth around the Island of Hawaiʻi, while shades of gray show land topography above sea level. Red shows lava flows erupted over the past 200 years. The Puna Ridge represents the submarine extension of Kīlauea’s east rift zone. The Hilo Ridge, originally thought to be a rift zone of Mauna Kea, may, in fact, be connected to Kohala. Photo courtesy U. S. Geological Survey

Understanding Hawaii Island Volcanoes

Because we live on an Island with an active volcano, understanding the history of our island’s development helps give us a more visceral sense of what the future may hold. We have veritable ring-side seats to the earth’s physical drama as it unfolds daily.

It has been 31 years since Kilauea started its current eruption phase and, according to this Volcano Watch article, scientists are learning that the size of a volcano may determine the eruption rate. However, they are not certain whether Kilauea is a small volcano or a part of the larger volcano, Mauna Loa.

“Is Kīlauea merely a small bump on Mauna Loa’s side or does it deeply cut into Mauna Loa’s edifice, effectively wedging apart the older and larger volcano? The answer to this question has direct bearing on the eruptive activity that we should expect from Kīlauea in the future since volcano size and eruption rate are related.

We know that Kīlauea has been erupting vigorously for about 100,000 years. Yet its eruption rate over that period must be low if Kīlauea is considered to be a small volcano, since size and eruption rate are related. In this sense, the last several decades of continuous eruptive activity may be unusual (and might not continue far into the future).

If, on the other hand, Kīlauea is considered to be a large volcano, the eruption rate over the past 100,000 years must have been high, and the current eruptive activity would be normal.”

Interesting questions for the scientists studying our island and for residents and visitors!

To learn more, visit the Volcano Observatory website, where you can also find information about the ongoing activities related to Volcano Awareness Month as well as updates on volcanic activity.

For more information about moving to Hawaii, living on the Big Island, or to search for homes, condos or land for sale here, please visit my website

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