On the USGS’s Twitter feed, they’ve kindly shared with us the most up-to-date (as of June 7) stats. Remarkably, since May 3, there’s been enough lava effused to fill 45,400 Olympic-sized swimming pools, that old classic volcanological comparison unit.
That, as they also note, is enough to cover the whole of Manhattan Island nearly 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) deep. Just before you think that’s impressive, though, the USGS also explain that this is just half the amount unleashed during the 1984 Mauna Loa eruption.
Mauna Loa, another of Big Island’s volcanic treasures, hasn’t erupted since then, but boy was it a doozy. Following three years of slowly intensifying seismic activity, which culminated in a fairly deep swarm in mid-September 1983, the volcano began to inflate shortly after a brief, fiery summit eruption.
The eruption began in earnest on March 25 in the middle of the night. The volcano began to glow, and fissures appeared, moving quickly down the southwest rift zone. Lava fountains made an appearance as masses of fast-moving lava began to flow in multiple directions, including toward the town of Hilo. Methane explosions caused by the thermal decomposition of buried vegetation also took place.
Fortunately, Hilo was saved when natural blockages to the lava, as well as changing eruptive conditions, spared it. Plenty of lessons were learned back then, and the same clearly applies to the events of 2018.