Comments: 272 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

Doppel-Banger109 karma

Have you managed to locate the Heart of Tefiti, yet?

Is this post ok, u/JayWaWa?

Tominavolcano117 karma

Not yet, but I gather it's somewhere at the bottom of the pacific ocean, so pretty restricted search zone...

rematar79 karma

I haven't tried to search for an anwer, but have wondered, do you see any signs that the activity may escalate?

Tominavolcano100 karma

Clearly this is a very important question to address. It is hard to say with any certainty what will happen next. A previous eruption there (1955) produced lava flows for about 3 months, ended and did not lead to larger scale lava flows in that particular area but still managed to cover ~4,000 acres.

rematar24 karma

Thank-you. The number of earthquakes reported had my volcano-uneducated mind pondering.

Tominavolcano71 karma

Yes, the earthquake activity has been incredible. I made a video for the period up to (I need to update it) you can access it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFoegMooGbk

NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning center has an even better one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm9ezJQBOXs

Dddydya42 karma

The residents of Hawaii are reportedly using masks to filter the toxins out of the air. The government is saying that these masks won’t help. What kind of gasses are emitted by the volcano? What causes the gasses? How are they dangerous to people? How long do they stay in the air? Is there anything people can do to avoid health problems from the air?

Tominavolcano60 karma

The gases emitted around the erupting fissures and vents typically consist of SO2, H2O and other things like HCL, CH4, so really not a good environment to breathe in. Residents that have been entering the premises over the last few days to gather some belongings and evacuate pets were strongly encouraged to wear masks. Lots of nasty health problems can be caused by breathing in those gases.

Most of the gas emitted comes from actual 'volatile' species within the magma itself. It's possible to dissolve a certain amount of each species in non-gaseous form, and how much of that depends on the depth that the magma is at. As magma gets shallower, these species become insoluble in the melt and prefer to exsolve into a vapor phase. Think of your soda when you open the cap, you're essentially reducing pressure in the bottle/can and allowing CO2 to exsolve into bubbles.

Rover_in_the_Sun21 karma

I'm on Maui. Should I expect the VOG over Maui to be more intense/concentrated than pre-Leilani Estates eruption when the Kona winds are blowing?

Tominavolcano29 karma

It's possible. I'm no specialist of the wind patterns around the islands but SO2 and aerosol output in general may increase in the next few weeks.

agree-with-you44 karma

I agree, this does seem possible.

Tominavolcano74 karma

Thanks agree_with_you, means a lot.

corn_on_the_cobh1 karma

Would this gas be present before, say, the eruption of Vesuvius? How different are the two (Vesuvius and this eruption)?

Tominavolcano4 karma

The volcanic or magmatic gas is present at depth an is typically part of the 'chemical' baggage, dissolved into the melt (not as vapor yet). So, as magma gets closer to the surface and potentially stalls in a reservoir for months, years, decades, millennia (you name it, occurs at all timescales!) it can start to exsolve its gas. This gas might permeate through the crust above the reservoir and gently generate fumaroles (gas escape at the surface). If too much of it builds up you can end up with very explosive eruptions like at Vesuvius. There, the magma was far more rich in H2O than magmas at Kilauea. Not only that, but it had a different overall chemical composition (more silica SiO2, more Alumina Al2O3 among other things) that made it more viscous (think, more resistant to pressure and deformation). Combine high gas content (explosive potential) with more resistance to overpressure and a much higher pressure buildup becomes possible. When this overpressure overcomes resistance from the overlying crust and volcanic edifice...blast!

el_muerte179 karma

Not an expert on volcanoes, but from the video coverage I've seen, people tend to be wearing masks with particulate filters (or worse, cheap paper dust masks). They should be wearing organic vapour/acid gas cartridges that actually capture SO2 and other gases.

Tominavolcano2 karma

Absolutely, very good point. We were on the eruption site helping out some friends move from the community where the eruption started and made sure to use acid gas cartridges, particularly for SO2 emissions. I can tell you, however, that by the third day of the eruption (8 days ago) those cartridges were gone from all stores on the east side of the Island. I think people did with what was available after that.

VirialCoefficientB3 karma

It depends on the mask and conditions. For the SO2 and stuff you need chemical cartridges and you need oxygen. Particulate filters won't help. Given possible oxygen displacement and unknown concentration of nasties, I'd probably go with a full face self contained breathing apparatus. Doubt many are doing that.

Tominavolcano3 karma

Yes, full mask is preferable. They were not sold in almost any stores unfortunately, and they are expensive.

UnfilteredAmerica38 karma

Does the magma that is being released by the current vents match in volume to the amount of magma that was feeding the crater and the amount that the crater has lost as the level has dropped?

If the crater were to become plugged due to rockfall from the walls, is there a chance that there is a path of lesser resistance that would cause an explosion through a different vent in the system?

Tominavolcano45 karma

Great question. We have good reasons to think that the volume of magma that has been released is far lower currently than what has been lost at the summit (the lava lake dropping) and at the previously active vent (Pu'u 'O'o). We also know that the magma erupted currently is DIFFERENT in chemistry from anything that has been erupting at the summit and at Pu'u 'O'o over the past years. So, in a way, it is not really the same magma coming from the summit region but rather older magma residing under this eastern area for a long time that has been presumably 'shoved' by our usual newer magma. In short, it's difficult to know what actual volume has been displaced towards the east of the volcano so far.

The crater being plugged by rockwall is a very possible scenario. This is what happened in 1924 at the summit after the existing lava lake drained as well. See https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/geo_hist_1924_halemaumau.html for some cool pictures and info.

UnfilteredAmerica17 karma

So, the new fissures are being fed by a different chamber than that which was feeding Pu'u O'o?

Tominavolcano19 karma

Yes, that is what we are currently assuming; it may be an old magma reservoir that has been intruded by newer Pu'u 'O'o-like magma but so far we haven't seen much of the newer magma. May change rapidly though...

UnfilteredAmerica8 karma

Based on the differing chemical composition of the magma, would you expect one to be more buoyant than the other such that you would see a rapid change in composition at the surface?

Alternatively, could expansion of P's chamber due to a plug put enough pressure on the other chamber to cause it to vent without being intruded?

Tominavolcano22 karma

That's a good question, the magma coming out since last week is likely more buoyant than the 'fresher' magma that we have yet to see at the surface. However, the most likely culprit for shoving out this older magma is overpressure from all the fresher magma intruding the near-entire portion of the subaerial 'east rift zone', and perhaps gas accompanying that fresh magma is also helping provide that overpressure.

We know that solid rock plugs do also cause local buildup of overpressure but this type of phenomenon would not easily propagate hydraulically to >40km or magma plumbing system. A nice summary of this phenomenon was given a few days ago by folks from HVO (warning, a bit long!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_s8cZiKcck&feature=youtu.be

Gases and sheer volume of magma intruded are usually the main culprits for overpressure. It's interesting to note, however, that when the lava lake at the summit would vary in depth (and cause small inflation or deflation of the summit), we would see similar patterns of inflation-deflation far away at Pu'u 'O'o, clearly suggesting that those two magma feeder systems were hydraulically connected.

HappyFern5 karma

Total ignorance question here... but how do you even GET samples of lava? What the heck materials can you make stuff out of that you can get sample and not have the whole thing melt/burn? Or do you have to wait until it's cooled then chip it out?

EntityDamage5 karma

Found this for you. I did search for lava sampling on youtube.

HappyFern4 karma

Thank you! That is SO COOL and terrifying. It's awesome people do that, but oh my god. Who was the first person that was like, "y'know, let's just try metal, move really fast, and hope it works out"

It begs the question too, though... why NOT just wait for it to cool? Is there enough of a shift in isotope profile or something that isn't changed by the cooling in water, that makes it worth sampling while still hot? Or is it to ensure that's the newest flow, and you're not accidentally sampling an older flow if you're testing already cooled rock?

Tominavolcano4 karma

Yes, that is exactly how we sample lava from gentle flows (advancing slowly). The bucket and water serves the purpose of rapidly cooling the chunks of lava so that they don't crystallize. Tiny crystals (microlites) form very quickly when the lava cools (in a span of a minute or less). If you cool it rapidly, the liquid portion of the lava (the lava has three components, a liquid phase, the melt, a bunch of solid phases, crystals, and a vapor phase, bubbles) turns to glass. Why do we want glass? We can analyze it for its chemical constituents to say something about the type of magma erupted (its DNA for lack of better analog!).

Now, to sample other products of volcanic eruptions like some of the more explosive stuff ejecting tephra/ash we can set up bins close to the vents, let them collect for a given duration and empty them daily or when needed. HVO does this around the summit of Kilauea and, when it was still active, Pu'u 'O'o.

HappyFern2 karma

Ooooh okay so there IS a very specific reason for collecting it still hot. Neat! How does the water stay cool enough? Or is the lava just so hot that the thermal mass of even hot water is enough to essentially flash cool it?

How do you collect gasses at the vents?

Tominavolcano3 karma

The water gets really hot and boils depending on the volume of water relative to the size of the sample you collect. The tricky part is that we often have to hike for miles to get to the active flow front, water is a precious resource when you're hiking around hot lava and get dehydrated super quickly. Therefore, we can carry a little over a gallon but we don't always have the luxury of lots and lots of water. Gases at the vent can be collected manually but these days there are instruments that use spectroscopy, and the absorption of light by different gas species, to do these measurements in a more real-time fashion. I'm definitely not an expert on those measurements though.

canarypalm22 karma

I have two questions: Is most of the rock that's left behind after the current lava flows in the East Rift Zone to be left as it is, or will it be cleared by heavy equipment?

And if it is left there as is, can plants grow on it? Will this eventually just become new land indistinguishable from other parts of that area on the Big Island?

EDIT: Thanks for doing the AMA

Tominavolcano30 karma

I can't say for sure what they will do once the eruption ceases. If the fissures keep opening in different places, and only small areas are covered by lava flows, they may decide to bulldoze and repair roads and utilities. When lava covers larger areas, the task becomes too difficult and costly. Currently, there is one larger (>1km long) lava flow that was active a week ago and since then, mostly smaller flows. Fingers crossed for the folks around that area larger magma volumes are not on their subsurface way to the site.

For plants, soil formation varies a LOT across the island (rainfall, microclimates) but one thing is for sure, it will be decades before anything significant grows on lava erupted in 2018.

canarypalm9 karma

A follow up question, if you've been following the one in 1990 that buried Kalapana -- people have built houses out there, on the cooled lava field. Are they nuts? Thanks again, this is great.

Tominavolcano20 karma

I used to think along similar lines. But when you've lived here for a while and understand that for some of those families this is the land they lived in for generations. For some, it's the only place they own. Some were left with little to nothing after their houses got destroyed. Kalapana apparently used to be a small piece of paradise.

And don't get me started on insurance companies... ;-)

canarypalm7 karma

Hey, I live in Southern California and felt an earthquake the other morning at 4 a.m. where the bed shook (and not in a good way) and I wondered ... Oh Jeez, I hope this isn't before the "big one." But then I went back to sleep.

Hawaii has a non-profit insurer or last resort for people in Lava Zone 1, but I keep reading that many people there don't have insurance of any kind, so I'm hoping it stays the way it is.

Tominavolcano11 karma

Yes, unfortunately a portion of folks living in those areas have no insurance at all.

California geology-volcanology is fascinating as well, you guys are lucky. Ok, except for the earthquakes...;-)

HappyFern18 karma

A Fox News article I saw recently suggested that increased Hawaiian volcano activity could indicate increased ring of Fire activity, particularly PNW. Is there any truth to this? I thought Hawaii was mid plate, and that made it fairly independent?

Tominavolcano77 karma

No, this volcanic activity is unrelated to what happens around the ring of fire in the pacific. The Hawaiian chain is, as you hinted, in the middle of the pacific plate and occurs due to hotspot volcanism. No connection with any continental US volcanoes.

davidjschloss16 karma

Amazing that multiple news site are reporting s possible uptick in US volcanos, yet that’s not true. I saw this on cnn.com yesterday. I wonder where they got that info.

Tominavolcano3 karma

I can only speculate that the news media is taking advantage of the Kilauea crisis to propagate a little more sensationalism for mainland folks, who probably feel 'too safe' for the media ;-)

There are many potential hazards associated with mainland volcanoes on the West coast but rest assured that the USGS is monitoring all of them very closely.

HappyFern15 karma

Awesome =) I'm from Oregon, and I get a little tired of constantly being told I'm about to die ;) Although better to die where you love than live somewhere with no mountains, eh?

What's the COOLEST thing about volcanos that goes unappreciated, do you think?

Tominavolcano30 karma

Well you do have a few of your own in your backyard (Crater Lake, Newberry, Mt Hood, Jefferson, the Sisters, Mt St Helens not that far away either...should I go on? ;-) )

The coolest thing is for me the sheer power and the scale of processes that are occurring under their vents, and the unpredictability. If one looks at the sequence of events that unfolded in the last week at Kilauea (magma found its way past an obvious eruption source active since 1983, decided to erupt much further east, a 6.9 earthquake occurred that wasn't related to magma movement, the magma drained from the summit lava lake as most of it was carried down to the new eruption site, we are now seeing small rockfalls and tiny explosions at the summit) it's mindboggling that all this happens in such a short timeframe and that essentially no one could have predicted. Seeing in the 'entrails' of the beast using monitoring tools but also samples we collect on the field is absolutely fascinating to me...I'll stop blabbering on

oregent76 karma

Yeah, I live less than an hour from Yellowstone - I feel you on the constant danger talk. I just always say that I'd rather die during the explosion than from toxic gasses / the aftermath!

Tominavolcano2 karma

I dislike the term supervolcano, and even scientists use it regularly now to talk about those really large scale systems. We're becoming part of spreading the irrational fear in so doing. The probability of a 'supereruption' is extreeeeeemely low.

newbodynewmind1 karma

Speaking of hot spot volcanism, I dont remember the extent of the chain of older features that this hot spot created. If you look on Google terrain maps, it looks like that there are old volcanos from this hot spot being subducted where the Pacific plate meets Russia. Is that true or am I mistaken?

Tominavolcano2 karma

That's absolutely true, it's called the Hawaiian-Emperor chain, it goes from the Island of Hawaii all the way to the subduction zone (near an area where two subduction zones interesect) where it disappears. The oldest dated part of the chain is around ~81 Ma old but there were probably older volcanoes that have now been subducted.

jonbmet17 karma

What sort of monitoring is being performed?

Tominavolcano40 karma

The United States Geological Survey is doing an incredible job monitoring the situation there. They have vast arrays of seismometers (to detect and locate earthquakes), and so called 'tiltmeters' that measure bloating or deflation of the volcano's summit and flanks, they measure gas output (SO2, CO2), and also use satellite radar images to track deformation.

I strongly recommend checking their website out they have TREMENDOUS amounts of info: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/

Tominavolcano13 karma

Valuable information about the ongoing eruption can be found on the Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO) website (part of United States Geological Survey, USGS) dedicated to Kilauea Volcano. https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/

If you want a live stream of the most recent fissure that opened, you should go on the facebook page of the Honolulu Civil Beat: https://www.facebook.com/civilbeat/videos/1947250471974338/

anaabc12 karma

When they announced the volcano errupted does that mean hot lava exploded out of the top or does the lava raise to the top and fall from the sides ? Btw sorry if it sounds dumb I am genuinly curious.

Tominavolcano21 karma

All volcanoes are pretty different from one another! Kilauea volcano has a summit region that has its own reservoir(s) fed by magma rising from the mantle. A lava lake had been at the summit since 2008 and connected directly to these reservoirs in some way. What's interesting about Kilauea is that it also has lateral magma storage and transport systems called 'rift zones' that extend several tens of km west and east of the summit caldera. In this particular case, magma seems to have found a way past its usual two eruption sites (the summit, and a crater called Pu'u 'O'o, erupting since 1983) further east into the 'east rift zone' all the way to Leilani estates. A pattern we had not seen for 58 years!

squirrelman96310 karma

Not about Hawaii, but do you have any thoughts on the doom and gloom reporting of the Yellowstone ‘super volcano’. Every time you hear about it, it seems like we’re all about to get wiped off the map. Do you think it’ll actually erupt anytime soon?

Tominavolcano3 karma

Volcanologists are meant to never say never!

As I mentioned above, I dread the term supervolcano, it distracts from the fact that there are other smaller volcanic systems (Mt St Helens, Mt Hood, Mt Shasta, Lassen Peak ....lots of others) that are still very large by all normal scales, and have all erupted in fairly recent times. The risk is greater there, for sure. So while yellowstone naturally attracts the media, our eyes and ears should focus on those more likely to erupt. Luckily, the USGS has eyes and ears around all of these systems. They could be much better funded than they are though.

HappyFern9 karma

So, thought of another. How did it get decided it was safe to build in these zones? How long does an area have to be dormant (not sure if correct term) before a builder can go get permits and build a subdivision? Also, do you know what sort of insurance people carry on homes like those? It seems like it would be a little bonkers, like building on a 50 year flood plane on something. I guess my key questions are, who holds the cards, and what sort of protections are there to prevent loss of property (and potentially life, although I realize with the "way" these volcanoes tend to erupt that's less likely?)

Tominavolcano24 karma

It actually never was deemed safe to build in those zones. The USGS published several maps (here is the one still used today: https://pubs.usgs.gov/mf/1992/2193/mf2193.pdf) outlining hazards zones (numbered from 1 to 9 for increasing risk), and those maps are publicly available and have been communicated/distributed regularly to populations from the area. There are however, no laws or clear restrictions to build there. You can buy cheaper land in a 'Zone 1' area but you essentially are accepting the high probability that lava flows will come and visit one day or another.

So, in a nutshell, there are efforts to make people aware of the dangers of building in these areas but there are tons of socioeconomic factors that come into play in trying to answer the question of 'why do people still live and build there'.

Insurance companies have 'fire' insurance but no 'lava' insurance as far as I know. One leads to another but they have likely clear distinctions as to what is allowed to be a valid 'cause of fire'. Can't comment with any degree of certainty on this.

HappyFern7 karma

And thank you for doing this AMA! Very interesting.

Tominavolcano10 karma

You're very welcome!

HappyFern3 karma

Wow. That’s a heck of a legal tangle. And yeah, the SES factors at play make it a sticky issue I imagine to legislate away the right to use the land. Tricky. I’ve only been to maui, but I know the economic disparities can be major over there.

canarypalm7 karma

The insurance information institute, which is a trade group, says that for the most part lava caused fires are covered under standard homeowners insurance.

Tominavolcano6 karma

Thanks a bunch for the link, very useful!

TequillaShotz8 karma

Is there anything about this eruption that has puzzled or surprised you?

Tominavolcano13 karma

This eruption has puzzled me and my colleagues in many ways. There is often - but not always - an extended preparation phase for eruptions at Kilauea. For instance, the 1955 eruption around the same area involved magma that had already intruded this part of the volcano 3-5 years earlier. Imagine this: the current eruption gave about 24h of earthquake and deformation warning. The earthquakes associated with magma moving eastward through the volcano's plumbing system propagated very rapidly. We did expect by then that an eruption was a likely outcome.

eatonsht6 karma

Can you comment on the Hilina Slump? What are the chances of a catastrophic slide into the ocean and a resulting tsunami?

Tominavolcano2 karma

Glad you know about the Hilina slump.

The Hawaiian Islands have all - no exception - undergone episodes of rapid landsliding. Entire flanks of some of these volcanoes have slid down and disaggregated into debris avalanche deposits, some of them traveling over 250 km (check out Tuscaloosa Seamount in your google earth or map, this a chunk of the Island of Oahu and its older Koolau volcano!). These catastrophic events are extremely rare say in a timescale of a few thousand years but occur more frequently if you consider much longer timescales (say 500,000 years!).

Slumps are different in that they move veeery slowly (although they always move faster during periods of high seimicity like 8 days ago, where a fault likely moved 1-2m within a couple min) towards the ocean. It is not impossible that a slump turns into a catastrophic event, and clearly this something scientists have thought about concerning the Hilina slump. These humongous landslides generate megatsunamis (seen as old deposits on land in Hawaii, in the Canary Islands, in the Azores, at Reunion Island among other places).

As with most catastrophic geological events on earth, something like this in our lifetimes is unlikely. Sorry to not have a more definitive answer!

katievsbubbles5 karma

Not necessarily about the Hawaiian eruption but volcanos in general if I may.

Can volcanos be vented?

By that I mean can a pocket be cut, however many feet deep to release pressure and stop a bigger eruption?

I know this is probably a silly question but for years I have been terrified about mt st Helens.

Tominavolcano16 karma

Not a silly question at all. Drilling efforts in Iceland have intersected magma bodies at depth before, and some pressure release occurred. But other than drilling 'accidents', it is (1) far too risky to try something like this on a large scale, say, like at Mt St Helens, and in many cases (2) way too deep for us to reach. The top of the magma chamber at St Helens is thought to be around 8km or so if I remember correctly. That's pretty deep!

Also think about this: if a government or other institution tried this and things turned out for the worse, who would be liable for potential destruction of nearby land, structures, etc...

Unfortunately we cannot dominate nature in this way, our best chances at mitigating are educating the population about risk, having a functional survey agency (again, the USGS is amazing in this sense), and enough funds to sustain monitoring and research to understand the 'beasts' in question.

es_price4 karma

What were your parents reaction when you told them that you were going to be a volcanologist? Not sure if they can brag about that at the retirement home. : )

Tominavolcano22 karma

Does anyone brag about their son being a geologist? ;-)

ctmurray11 karma

I have a geologist daughter can I continue to brag about her all the time?

Tominavolcano2 karma

Absolutely, you should be proud. And tell her to join our program at UH if she's a student (recruiting much?)

exfilm3 karma

What is the likelihood of an eruption that would wipe out the entire island?

Tominavolcano21 karma

This is very unlikely to happen. Eruptions in Hawaii can be long lived (Pu'u 'O'o has been erupting more or less at the same location for 35 years) and cover huge areas with lava flows. This process, however, tends to occur on long timescales (years-decades). Some mild explosive activity is also possible at the summit of Kilauea volcano (>40km away from the current eruption site!). The summit lava lake that had persisted since 2008 is now drained and there is a chance that rock falls and interactions between magma and water could trigger small explosions.

Nothing that would 'wipe out' the island though ;-)

DrBPharmD2 karma

Plan on taking a vacation to that island in July. Renting a house on northwestern coast. Was originally planning to stay a few miles from the volcano. Everyone keeps telling me that it isn’t safe. Can you weigh in on that or tell me what resources tourists should seek? Flights and rental cars are still not allowing cancellation at this time. How far reaching are the effects (air quality etc) of an active volcano?

Tominavolcano2 karma

You are perfectly safe around that area, no chance the northwest part of the island will be affected by any that volcanic activity (except for some potentiallky VOGgy weather). Come enjoy the islands!

Normalaverage_guy2 karma

How does a property owner go about reclaiming their land once all this subsides?

Tominavolcano13 karma

This is perhaps more a question for the State of Hawaii and Civil defense but as far as I know, evacuations orders can last until the eruption (or the current phase in the eruption) is over. Once this happens, folks are usually allowed to reclaim their land. The Pu'u 'O'o 1983-2018 eruption claimed an enormous number of structures (e.g. Kalapana in the late 80s and early 90s), and you can see on Google maps (or better yet, Google Earth, search Kalapana, HI) that new structures have been built on these parts covered by lava flows. It's heartbreaking to lose your home and in some cases hard to leave land that families have lived on for generations.

vmt_nani1 karma

Can lava flow be redirected with concrete barriers? (Shoutout to the movie Volcano)

Being from Texas, this movie was the only thing i knew about volcanos, and since then, i have read and tried to educate myself about them. Yet this one question remains....

Tominavolcano2 karma

Yes it can, particularly around volcanoes that have slightly steeper slopes. At Kilauea, this isn't easy because the slopes are quite gentle and lava tends to simply pond and overflow them. I responded to a similar question above with some links to an example at Etna.

Direwolf2021 karma

Why did you decide to become a Volcanologist? Also Pineapple on Pizza?

Tominavolcano2 karma

The question is why doesn't EVERYONE want to become a volcanologist? ;-)

As is the case for many of us, it's actually going to these places and appreciating the scale and force of things you and no one has any control on. It's nature at its liveliest. Consider that this stuff coming out and the landscapes built by eruptions has traveled all the way from the earth's mantle in many cases. I find that mind boggling. Add to this that studying rocks is like forensics work. You do field work to examine the extend of a volcanic deposit, reconstruct potential eruption scenarios for eruptions that were not monitored/too old. You try to look at every detail, chemistry, physical appearance, its mineral content, the chemical variations within the minerals, the bubbles/vesicles to reconstruct. It's fascinating detective work!

But yeah, Pineapple on Pizza....

Shadopancake1 karma

I’m kind of late to the party but maybe you will see this! I am curious how much of your time as a Volcanologist do you actually get to spend in the field? And how long do you study or prepare before you are allowed in the field, up close to volcanoes? The footage the Kraffts got has always amazed me, but I’m sure they don’t let just any ol’ scrub that close to lava.

Tominavolcano2 karma

Like many other university-based researchers, I wish I'd get more field time to be honest. I do travel a few times per year to do field work, more so at Kilauea which is right next door. A lot of the work I do on other volcanoes focuses on older eruptions (>1000 years) so not much risky business there.

Field preparation is key and one has to be in decent physical condition and know when to turn around or say 'this is close enough' when necessary. We all get excited like little kids when we approach a lava flow or even lava fountains, I don't think that's going to ever change ;-)

At Kilauea, only the USGS is really allowed on site to monitor the activity in addition to police/military to help with controlling flux of people and evacuations.

I grew up in France, the Kraffts have always been a topic of fascination since I was a kid. There are no others like them.

blablabliam1 karma

Would it be possible to manage lava flows with earthworks? Could you build canals across the island for lava flows to drain into? Im no expert but I am curious.

Tominavolcano2 karma

That's a really interesting question.

There were efforts at Mt. Etna to build both barriers as well as canals to divert the flows upstream closer to the vent (where diversion would actually have an effect). They were actually quite successful in doing this and managed to possibly save a community from being covered by the flows. Here is a piece of a older documentary that relates a little bit of their efforts:


In most cases, barriers built at Kilauea for similar purposes (e.g. during the 1960 eruption at Kapoho) were unsuccessful. Part of the problem is that slopes are so low there that diversion is complicated. The flow simply ponds at the back of the blocked area until it overflows.

Another problem to consider is that if the city or state decides to divert the flows and they end up in some other community....there are way too many liability issues to even consider doing this today.

People have also tried bombing lava flows for diversion but that's another story ;-)

bugfroggy1 karma

Kind of late but I have two questions if you're still answering: 1. How long will it take for the toxic gases to go away? Will this part of Hawaii be inhabitable for a long time? 2. Once the lava stops, what happens? Do people just start over and build on top of it, or is it somehow removed?

Tominavolcano2 karma

  1. At the current eruption site, if let's say, the eruption stops tomorrow, there would likely be gas output for some weeks-months depending on what left underneath in terms of unerupted magma.
  2. This depends on the extent of the lava flows. At Leilani estates, there were some fissures that opened and ejected small volumes of tephra (fragmented magma) and lava. On this cool aerial photo overlain by a thermal image (https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/maps_uploads/image-422.jpg) you can see that fissures 1, 3, 4 for instance have not built too much in terms of lava flows or ejecta 'ramparts'. Fissure 8 and the more recent fissures 17 and 18 are producing larger flows unfortunately. Larger flows can't really be bulldozed (so building on top is the only solution for those who want to keep their land), but smaller stuff can be removed.

Anon63761 karma

Would Dr Evils plan to hold the world hostage by sending a nuclear missile into the core of the earth work? Or would the nuclear missile not do much/any damage?

Tominavolcano2 karma

I can't comment on that, it's top secret.

which_ones_will1 karma

I think the big question we all want to ask is - will this volcanic activity have any effect whatsoever on my upcoming trip to Maui?

Tominavolcano2 karma

And we can all sleep better knowing that it absolutely won't...;-)

cspaced1 karma

How long did you practise before you could talk without your lips moving and it sounded like the doll was talking?

Tominavolcano2 karma

15 years?

bh20051 karma

I work with elementary aged kids in Special Education. Last week a 3rd grader drew a very detailed picture of a volcano and an asteroid crashing into it. I alleviated his fears of the likelihood of such an event, but he wanted to know what would happen if an asteroid did indeed crash into the crater of an active volcano.

I had to tell him honestly, I don't know. What would happen?

Tominavolcano2 karma

Kids can think of such awesome scenarios, gotta love it! I'm no expert on meteorite impacts but I'll venture to say that (1) they are veeery unlikely events on their own (very small probability a meteorite makes it through earth's atmosphere in the first place), and combined with (2) the extremely low probability that it would somehow land inside the crater of an active volcano, I'd say that's in the extremely unlikely category of scenarios.

What would happen? I have no idea to be honest! Removing a large portion of summit or flank from a volcano could lead to disastrous consequences for sure (e.g. Mt St Helens in 1980 although the chain of events involved a magma intrusion there).

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elliottscott3 karma

How “bad” is the current eruption? In terms of scale, damage, time lapse, etc.

Tominavolcano4 karma

The current eruption has not yet emitted a very large volume of lava but occurred directly within the Leilani Estates community. Over 35 homes have now been destroyed last I heard. An important problem is that of access. The fissures have opened at various locations and cut access to some neighborhoods. This is a big change of behavior for Kilauea volcano, where lava had mostly been erupting around the same location (Pu'u 'O'o vent) for 35 years.