Scientists amazed at Kilauea's power

Kilauea erupted 30 years ago

Published  7:15 PM HST Jan 03, 2013

It's been 30 years since the initial eruptions at Kilauea that changed lives, perceptions and the landscape of Hawaii.

Since then, 214 structures have been destroyed, millions of dollars in damage have been tallied and the Big Island has grown larger by 500 acres.

Kilauea has lived up to its given name meaning "spewing" or "much spreading."

The seemingly never-ending flow of the volcano is still a spectacular sight that wows the world and those who study it closely.

"If anything, the last 30 years have told us that an eruption like this can go on for decades, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone was talking about this.  It probably wouldn't be me," said Jim Kauahikaua, the Scientist-in-Charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Kilauea's eruption began on Jan. 3, 1983.  Kauahikaua didn't know it then, but this would be the start of an impressively long run.

"Once we all realized that this would be an eruption that would last weeks or months, we all joked that this would be the eruption that defined our careers little realizing that we'd be working on this until we retired," said Kauahikaua.

The continuous lava eruption from the Pu'u O'o vent continues to expand informational bases within the science of volcanology.

Kauahikaua and his team have studied a number of Kilauea's elements.  It's eruptions, lava flows and new behaviors.

Kilauea lava flow active on coastal plain
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This is a composite image of a photograph and a thermal image to show the areas of active lava breakouts on the coastal plain of the Big Island.


"The movement is equivalent to a magnitude 5 earthquake," said Kauaikaua.  "Instead of lasting seconds, it can last a couple of days.  That's teaching us a lot the way the magma goes through."

With more to learn from Kilauea years from now, one constant factor hasn't changed -- danger!  Hawaiian legend links the fiery eruption to Madame Pele and her ability to devour open land, homes, lives, and forever change the way we view nature's power.

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