A small explosion at Kilauea's summit jolted scientists this morning, while sulfur dioxide-laced fumes fueled another evacuation advisory for a community downwind.
The explosion happened just before 4 a.m. (Hawaii time), sending faintly pink ash across the crater’s overlook. Geologists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the ash appeared to be rock dust with no volcanic glass fragments. This was the third explosion at Kilauea summit’s Halemaumau crater vent since March 19.
Meanwhile, Big Island Civil Defense issued a brief evacuation advisory for Hawaiian Ocean View Estates after increased sulfur dioxide levels were detected by fire department monitors. The advisory was issued at 7:45 a.m., and cancelled two hours later when levels of the noxious fumes had decreased.
It was the second Big Island Civil Defense evacuation advisory in a week caused by fumes from Halemaumau carried downwind. Hawaiian Ocean View Estates is a rural residential subdivision located south of Kailua-Kona on the west side of the Big Island. Kilauea’s summit is on the east side of the island.
Park ranger Mardie Lane told us that weather conditions at the summit today are overcast skies with still to light variable winds carrying the plume away from the area. However, park visitors should always be aware that conditions can and do change instantly.
"The whim of the wind is a powerful force," said Lane. "It's going to guide us in directions about opening and closing certain areas. So people do need to know that when we make a decision to do something it is for their safety and ours. And this can happen at any time on any day."
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Photo of Kilauea caldera and Halemaumau crater vent on 4/13/08, courtesy of USGS