29 years of steady eruptions ... and counting

By Teri Okita – bio | email

KILAUEA VOLCANO, THE BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - For 29 years straight, Madam Pele has put on a spectacular show at the Big Island's Kilauea volcano. Few places in the world can compare, really.

Today marks the anniversary of the first breathtaking eruption on January 3rd, 1983. 2012 kicks off a banner year at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and national park. Geologists have a lot to talk about - with almost three decades of material, plus a new volcanic event that started less than a month ago.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist, Tim Orr, says about the December show, "The crater filled to overflowing - the largest overflows we've had since 1998 and then, that culminated in a fissure eruption on the east flank of Puu Oo - which sent flows downslope to the southeast and eventually built a lava tube which carried lava into the ocean."

That event stopped last Saturday, but the overall eruption goes back to this day in 1983 - when lava surfaced along several fissures. Over the years, dozens of lava fountains have shot as high as 1,500 feet into the air.

The cauldron of fury has both given and taken away. In 1986 and 1990, rolling lava destroyed communities and homes in Kapa ahu and Kalapana. Since 1983, lava flows buried almost 50 square miles of public and private land - blanketing native forests, miles of highway, and hundreds of structures. But it's also added to the aina. Moltan lava flowing to the sea has produced about 500 new acres of land to the Big Island.

"There's no reason to think that this eruption won't hit 30 years. There's no evidence that it's slowing down, but one never knows," says Orr.

HVO, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, will keep documenting it all, as it's done for 100 years. Spokeswoman, Janet Babb, says, "Well, HVO was America's first volcano observatory. We were the first volcano observatory in the U.S. Now, there are five."

To celebrate a century of observing, HVO will hold special events on Hawaii island several times a week during the month of January. It will culminate on January 29th, when geologists will hold a huge, day-long 100th anniversary celebration. For more information on the month's activities, you can log onto hvo.wr.usgs.gov.

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