The Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, began a startling new eruptive episode this year. And what seemed like it would never end did so abruptly in late September. And now, three months later, the Kilauea eruption is officially over.
Leilani Estates Eruption
As you’ll recall, Kilauea’s eruption took a very sudden and surprising turn back in May when new eruptive vents began appearing in Leilani Estates. It was one of the volcanoes most destructive episodes ever. 700 homes were destroyed in that time and 12 miles of ground covered. And while it was unfortunate for those impacted by the eruption, it sure was an awe-inspiring sight for everyone else. But as soon as the eruption began, it came to an end. Seemingly overnight, activity at the vents went quiet and all traces of lava or magma disappeared.
Today’s #HVO #Kīlauea Volcano update (12:49 PM HST) paints a picture of a pause – but we’re not yet ready to say if it’s a full stop. https://t.co/7sDZqcOJ5s #KilaueaErupts #LERZ #Halemaumau #LeilaniEstates #Kapoho pic.twitter.com/BeV89gPi3u
— USGS Volcanoes? (@USGSVolcanoes) August 6, 2018
Why the Eruption is Officially Over
Kilauea has been in a near constant state of eruption since 1983. That’s 35 years of continuous activity! But as we reached the 90-day mark of zero activity, scientists are calling this the end of the 1983 eruption. The reason for this, besides the lack of activity, is the fact that this is the longest period of silence since this eruptive phase began. Plus, no lava is visible anywhere now, not even at Kilauea’s summit. There is no activity whatsoever. That doesn’t mean, though, that eruptions at Kilauea are over for good.
Now, though the eruption is officially over, volcanoes are predictably unpredictable. So, while it’s unlikely the same eruption will restart, there is a remote chance that it will. As a result, scientists believe that the next eruption will occur in a different location. And it’s not a question of if, but when and where. Kilauea, after all, is still an active volcano; it’s still emitting gas and magma is still moving around underground. However, there isn’t enough pressure or magma in the system to sustain an eruption right now. When the volcano does erupt again, though, it could be a different type of eruption (more explosive) and will likely happen in a different area.
Of course, if magma is draining out of Kilauea’s system, it could mean another volcano may erupt. After all, there are two other active volcanoes on the Big Island, all of which share the same magma source. One of those volcanoes is Mauna Loa, which hasn’t erupted since 1984, which was around the time Kilauea began its most recent eruption. And there’s also Hualalai on the Big Island’s west side, which hasn’t erupted since 1801 but is still considered active. Both volcanoes are expected to erupt again and the near future and both pose significant threats to nearby cities. After all, much of Kona is built on Hualalai and Manua Loa’s last eruption threatened Hilo.
Kilauea Eruption is Officially Over, Final Thoughts
Kilauea’s last eruption was both incredible and unfortunate all at once. Many lost their homes in the wake of surprise eruption, but for those that were able to safely see it, it must have been awe-inspiring. After all, it’s the first time in decades fountains of lava appeared on the Big Island. But, all of that is now over and the residents of Leilani Estates can begin the recovery process. Well, sort of. The area around the vents is still unstable thanks to the underground changes caused by the volcanic activity. And whether or not the area will remain habitable is a discussion officials and residents need to have.
At any rate, the ending of Kilauea’s recent eruptive phase brings an unusual new normal to the Big Island and the entire state. For the first time as far as I can remember, there is no VOG on Kona wind days. And, of course, there’s also no chance to see lava in Hawaii at the moment too. But the volcanoes will erupt again. The big questions now are when, where, and how. Stay tuned!