Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Just Became Even More Dangerous

May 21, 2018

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Over the weekend, massive lava flows from the Kilauea volcano surged over the southeast shores of the island into the Pacific, forming thick, toxic clouds known as “laze.”

Dr. Rick Knabb, an expert at The Weather Channel, told TPG that the dangerous mix of hydrochloric acid and fine slivers of glass is created when up to 2,000-degree lava reacts with the balmy 75-degree ocean waters.

“That temperature difference,” he explained, “causes a very rapid and explosive kind of reaction.”

According to Knabb, the breezy, easterly trade winds are carrying the laze plume “locally, to the southwest or the west-southwest.” The laze is not expected to interfere with aircraft, as it’s fairly low — but the noxious haze has already traveled some 15 miles along the shoreline.

PAHOA, HI - MAY 21: Steam plumes rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii
PAHOA, HI – MAY 21: Steam plumes rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 21, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. Officials are concerned that ‘laze’, a dangerous product produced when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will affect residents. Laze, a word combination of lava and haze, contains hydrochloric acid steam along with volcanic glass particles. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

 

As long as the lava continues spilling into the seawater, the laze plumes will continue forming, posing a continued threat to locals and people venturing too near the clouds.

“It’s very dangerous to be up close,” said Knabb. “Just breathing [the laze] could cause lung damage, [and] also tremendous eye and skin irritation. It’s an amazing sight, but very nasty.”

PAHOA, HI - MAY 20: Steam plumes rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii
PAHOA, HI – MAY 20: Steam plumes rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 20, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. Officials are concerned that ‘laze’, a dangerous product produced when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will affect residents. Laze, a word combination of lava and haze, contains hydrochloric acid steam along with volcanic glass particles. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

 

Kilauea’s continued eruption has become increasingly serious. On Friday evening, a brief explosion from the volcano launched ash up to 10,000 feet in the air, according to the US Geological Survey. (Last week, an eruption created a wall of smoke and ash 12,000-feet high.)

Meanwhile, spattering lava continues to fountain from multiple active fissures, and volcanic gas emissions are being carried downwind. Volcanic fog, or “vog,” is also an ongoing issue — as is the continued emission of sulfur dioxide gas.

At this time, Hawaiian Airlines’ travel waiver remains in effect for flights to and from either Hilo (ITC) or Kona (KOA) until May 31.

Featured image by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

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