Of all the magma in Kilauea's summit, just about 2% has erupted in lower Puna

Updated: Jun. 1, 2018 at 2:31 PM HST
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PUNA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The volume of lava that's erupted into lower Puna is hard to wrap your head around.

So far, lava has covered about 5.5 square miles, destroying at least 77 homes and covering a number of main thoroughfares.

It's also created massive lava fountains, some topping 250 feet. And active fissures are spitting out an incredible 40 to 60 cubic feet of lava per second.

But all that lava — well, it's just a tiny fraction of the magma stored at the summit of Kilauea. In fact, geologists estimate, just 2 percent.

"We think the amount of material that's actually left the summit storage facility system is quite small compared to the amount that's actually there," Kyle Anderson, of the U.S. Geological Survey, told reporters in a conference call Friday. "There may be some sense out there that we're evacuating most of the magma from the summit and that's just not true."

So does that mean the rest of the stored magma — that 98 percent — has yet to be erupted?

Well, not quite.

Geologists just don't know how long the eruptions will last, and it's not clear how much of the magma will actually end up at the surface as lava.

"It may or may not be a very long event, but it won't be controlled by that 98 percent number," Anderson said. "If we continue to withdraw magma, we could ... do that for quite some time based on the amount stored at the summit."

What is clear: For now, the lava just keeps coming.

This story will be updated.

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