Eruptions on the Big Island are so vigorous they're creating weather

Eruptions on the Big Island are so vigorous they're creating weather
Updated: Jul. 2, 2018 at 5:03 PM HST
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PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ongoing eruptions on the Big Island are creating their own weather over lower Puna.

A series of intense thunderstorms fired up over the area on Monday, due to pyrocumulonimbus clouds, officials said.

The National Weather Service reported more than 1,200 lightning strikes between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.

"This is thunder and lightning right over our heads, not moving," said Nanawale Estates resident Gary Blume. "It's starting to drive people crazy."

Experts said the lack of trade winds and an upper level low to the north of the islands made the weather more unstable.

The excess heat from the eruptions enhanced thunderstorms firing up over Leilani Estates and down toward Kapoho.

"That excess instability gets turned into updrafts — strong, billowing, vertically-developed clouds that can create lightning, thunder, locally heavy rain," said Robert Ballard, a science and operations officer at National Weather Service-Honolulu.

Those pyrocumulonimbus clouds billowed up to 45,000 feet, according to Ballard.

"We wouldn't normally be getting thunderstorms out of a system this weak, but when you add that much heat to the lower levels, it's really helping to pump things up," he said.

Ballard expected the stormy weather to taper off in the evening, but said heavier clouds and stronger showers would still form over the lower east rift zone until the volcano finally settles down.

"As long as we have active lava fountaining and flowing in this river down to the shoreline, you're adding heat to the lower atmosphere which makes it more unstable," said Ballard.

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