Experts say new eruptions along Puna are unexpected
Experts say the size of an eruption has to do with the type of magma involved.
Even in a region built on the slopes of an active volcano, experts say these new eruptions along Hawaii Island's Puna region are unexpected.
"There were already two places that magma was being supplied to the surface, two weak points in the system. The fact that one of them has shut down and sent the magma somewhere else was very surprising," Julia Hammer, professor of geology and geophysics at UH Manoa said.
Hammer explained, the size of an eruption has to do with the type of magma involved.
"Right now the current activity at Kilauea is kind of on the leaky side. So, we're getting dribbles that spend a relatively short amount of time in storage on the way from the mantle. In a way it's kind of a good thing," Hammer said.
She describes it as a self-venting in order to keep the pressure low.
"What propels magma towards the surface of the earth in any volcano is the dissolved gas in the magma that begins to exsolve and make bubbles. That creates confining pressure that's enough to crack rock in some cases." Hammer said.
Hammer is also stressing the importance of steering clear of the unstable cracks.
"A crack can suddenly get wider and gas can come out of the crack. Those are both situations you' want to avoid." Hammer said.
Experts say this event shares similarities to Kilauea's eruption in 1955, where lava covered nearly 4,000 acres on Hawaii Island.
This time, they say it's nearly impossible to predict how long it will last, especially since most of their resources are elsewhere on Kilauea.
"We'd like to have seismometers and ground deformation instrumentation kind of blanketing the whole rift zone. Right now, and for the past few decades, most of the activity has emanated from further up the rift zone." Hammer said.