Kilauea's eruptions are very different to what's happening in Gu - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Kilauea's eruptions are very different to what's happening in Guatemala. Here's how

Guatemala's volcanic eruption is very different than eruptions on the Big Island -- and so are the consequences. (Image: AP) Guatemala's volcanic eruption is very different than eruptions on the Big Island -- and so are the consequences. (Image: AP)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Just as Kilauea surpassed about a month of extreme volcanic activity, Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego erupted, forcing the evacuation of over 3,000 people. The two volcanoes have dealt mass destruction, but are different in many other ways.

One of the more glaring differences surrounding news of the two eruptions is Guatemala’s death toll.

Volcán de Fuego, or “volcano of fire,” has killed at least 99 people, and hundreds more are missing. Experts say the volcano emitted something different than what has been seen in Hawaii, a pyroclastic flow.

"You can't say all pyroclastic flows are always more dangerous than all lava flows, but you can generally say that pyroclastic flows are more dangerous than lavas overall," said Ken Rubin, chair of the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the University of Hawaii.

Rubin says these clouds of ash and hot gas cannot be outrun as they move downslope and spread out to long distances quickly. 

"They also form without much warning from a collapse of part of the eruption plume," he said.

Appearance is another big difference between the two volcanoes. Volcán de Fuego is a 12,356-foot stratovolcano with steep sides, while the 4,000-foot Kilauea is a much wider shield volcano.

Fuego's eruption was much more violent, and mostly took place through one main vent near its summit, while Kilauea's magma has moved underground for miles before popping up through dozens of fissures spread across the area. 

The lava in Hawaii moves much slower than the pyroclastic flow seen in Guatemala, making its way across land at under a half mile per hour.

"Lavas can be deadly and dangerous, but they usually move at a more predictable rate and don't spread out as quickly across the land, so it can usually be escaped from before people lose their life," Rubin said.

Once lava cools, it hardens into rock. But at Fuego, cooling is a different story. Rubin says that when hot ash from a pyroclastic flow settles and mixes with a water source, like rain, it could lead to mud flows called Lahars.

"Mud flows caused damage and loss of life at Unzen about a decade ago, and were a major factor in the hazards during the 1991 Pinatubo eruption," he said.

The story is not over for either volcano. As mudslides become the new concern in Guatemala, experts believe Kilauea could continue to erupt for months.

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