Kilauea eruption marks 10,000th day
By Erin Miller
West Hawaii Today
Ten thousand days into Kilauea's summit eruption, scientists have collected a wealth of information about the volcano's internal workings.
The ongoing eruption and accompanying gas emissions, predominantly sulfur dioxide mixed with volcanic ash, has kept four miles of Crater Rim Drive closed to the public for more than two years, and that's likely to continue, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said yesterday.
"It's unpredictable," Orlando said, standing near a road pullout on the southern side of Halemaumau Crater. "It will remain unpredictable."
But just four out of 62 miles of paved road and 15 out of 130 total miles in the park are closed, she said. And the break has been good for local wildlife, she added, noting an increase in forest birds near the road closure at the Chain of Craters Road intersection.
The closure is also in keeping with Hawaiian traditions, cultural anthropologist Keola Awong said. Hawaiians had many laws, including ones specific to Pele's home, Halemaumau. Lava that steamed was land still forming and not to be touched, she said.
"We have to stay clear and respect Pele and her movements," Awong said. "Some Hawaiians, they like this closure. It's a break for her."
From a scientific standpoint, today — the 10,000th day of continuous eruption — isn't necessarily a milestone, Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Jim Kauahikaua said.
"(It's) a little like the 9,999th day," he said. But "10,000 days is an incredibly long time."
Since Jan. 3, 1983, scientists have been monitoring the 27-plus year eruption, which has mostly produced gas emissions, including sulfur dioxide in amounts from about 200 tons a day to 2,000 tons a day. Scientists have witnessed — and investigated — explosive events, including one March 19, 2008, which opened a new vent in Halemaumau Crater.
Scientists have also noticed signs showing just how connected the summit is to vents in other parts of the island. Tiltmeters — tubes a few feet high that are secured in the ground — contain liquid with an air bubble inside, geophysicist Mike Poland said.
The tiltmeter records how the air bubble shifts as the ground beneath the machine shifts, Poland said.
"They're extremely sensitive and they send data back about once a minute," he said, adding the tiltmeters shift toward the summit during deflation and away during inflation.
As little to 30 to 60 minutes after the signs show inflation at the summit, scientists can start to see similar signs of activity at Puu Oo, clearly demonstrating the direct connection between the summit and that vent, Poland said.
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