Kilauea's Eruption Has Made So Much Lava That It's Making New Land Along The Coast

The youngest land on Earth. USGS

Robin Andrews 08 Jun 2018, 18:20

This won’t come as much of a surprise to volcanologists, or anyone living on Hawaii’s Big Island, but it’s something that has nevertheless stirred something within the souls of the general public. So, here it is: Kilauea’s eruption is creating new land along its coastline, thanks to the hard work the volcano’s putting in to transform everything around it into a scarred, lunar-like landscape.

For some time now, lava has been entering the sea. This happens on a semi-regular basis on the island anyway. Remember, Kilauea has been erupting since 1983 in some form or another. Sometimes, if the lava lake overflows or a lava flow emerges through the subsurface, it can result in spectacular scenes of lava hoses pouring off cliffs and creating plumes of hydrochloric acid, glass-filled mayhem.

That mayhem, as it happens, is called laze. Normally not produced in quantities to cause concern, it’s now being manufactured along the coastline to an extent that the authorities are making sure no one goes near it.

This, of course, is thanks to the profuse nature of the current eruption, whose superheated, deeply derived source magma is now being effused from just a single fissure, number 8.

A new delta appears near Kapoho Bay. USGS

Lava fountaining, volcanic tornadoes, and cinder-cone building aside, Fissure 8 has been sending lava anastomosing nearly 13 kilometers (8 miles) down towards the coast. This has plowed its way through several neighborhoods, including Vacationland at Kapoho Bay. It is here that the lava is tumbling into the ocean and transforming into new land.

Magma/lava doesn’t always make new land when it hits the sea. Whether it’s a surface eruption or an underwater one, you need a high flow rate and a high amount of the molten gooey stuff to make something you could one day stand on, or else the waves will simply swallow them up.

The new land is appearing around Kapoho Bay. USGS

Kilauea's got nothing on other volcanoes, though. Back in 2013, an eruption 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Tokyo showed how to do it right.

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