Hector, meet Hawaii.
As you’ve probably heard by now, a fairly powerful hurricane is moving westwards across the Pacific Ocean, and it could – somewhat unusually for the state – make landfall on Hawaii’s Big Island in the next few days. It could also just brush past it. It’s currently a Category 4, which means that it has wind speeds of 209-250 kilometers (130-156 miles) per hour.
The appearance of a powerful hurricane anywhere there are humans obviously isn’t welcome, and floods and dangerous wind conditions are possibilities. What several people have been asking on various social media channels, though, is what happens when a hurricane meets an erupting volcano?
Sorry to disappoint fans of histrionic tabloids, but it’s not going to cause anything apocalyptic. The two events will barely interact, if at all, and here’s why.
For the last few months, the Kilauea eruption has been generally without incident, with the notable exception of that near-fatal, lava-bomb-meets-tour-boat drama that played out a few weeks back.
The summit crater continues to slump as magma beneath it continues to drain. At the same time, fissure 8 in the Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) has remained the sole lava-producing fissure.
There’s a chance that the magmatic source is temporarily running low. The latest United States Geological Survey (USGS) updates on the situation note dropping lava flux rates from fissure 8. The lava channel is crusting over, and less lava is entering the ocean these days, with laze levels diminishing overall.
The USGS stress, however, that “it is common for eruptions to wax and wane or pause completely,” adding that “a return to high levels of lava discharge or new outbreaks in the area of active fissures could occur at any time.”
Still, what you currently have is a fair bit of lava going on, with some vog and laze. So how can that dance with a hurricane?