The lava that's been erupting in Puna is likely from a 1955 flow

Lava that's been spewing from the ground in Puna could be from a 1955 flow. (Image: Hawaii News...
Lava that's been spewing from the ground in Puna could be from a 1955 flow. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: May. 11, 2018 at 1:54 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - During a call with reporters Friday on the ongoing volcanic activity in Puna, geologists dropped something of a bombshell.

The lava, they said, that started spewing into the Leilani Estates subdivision last week and has so far destroyed 26 homes and covered more than 100 acres is probably from an old flow.

How old? Try 63 years old — from a 1955 flow that the ongoing eruption is being compared to.

Here's how that's possible.

Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said that based on rock samples and chemical analysis scientists are fairly sure that what's coming out of the ground "so far looks to be similar to the 1955 lava chemistry."

It's a little cooler than the freshest stuff. And it's a little sluggish, which is why scientists believe more expansive lava flows haven't developed.

Neal said the lava had probably been stored in the rift zone since 1955.

The significant concern, then, is that behind the 1955 lava is probably much more magma — traveling downslope from the summit of Kilauea.

"What we are all wondering ... is if it will take a turn for the worse in terms of hazards if fresher, hotter magma makes it to the surface behind that," Neal said. "And indeed that could be what is coming because magma is coming down the rift zone and that magma may fresher and hotter."

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.