UH team to study current eruption in hopes of predicting future ones

UH team to study current eruption in hopes of predicting future ones
Rivers of lava run toward the sea in lower Puna, where eruptions started nearly three weeks ago. (Image: Chance Agpoon)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii is receiving a $119,000 grant to study ongoing volcanic activity and help predict future eruptions.

The study will assess the location and movement of magma beneath the lower east rift zone of Kilauea to provide information on the processes leading up to the eruption activity, according to a news release.

News of the grant comes as the U.S. Geological Survey says volcanic activity at Kilauea has left at least .2 percent of Hawaii Island covered in lava.

"The most time sensitive and exciting aspect of the project includes application of very short half-life natural radioactivity to look at variation in volcanic conditions (such a magma ascent rate and degassing) at the various fissures," said Ken Rubin, the principal investigator of the study, in an email.

Rubin says the Kilauea eruption is the first time such research has been possible.

"Very few labs in the world can do this sort of analysis and we are lucky at UHM to be able to take advantage of this opportunity," he said.

The project will also look at how Kilauea's magma was formed, and how it was stored in the rift zone. The research will also examine how different physical properties of the magma affect its flow across land.

"Scientific data has been critical to tracking the volcanic activity on Hawaii Island to minimize the threat to Puna families," said Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono in a news release.

The project was funded through the National Science Foundation's Rapid Research Response program, which is available for research on natural disasters and other unanticipated events, according to the same release.

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