DISCUSSION: Kilauea volcano on Hawai’i island is an active volcano with continuous eruptions dating to 1983. May 3rd, 2018 was the most current volcanic eruption cycle for Kilauea, opening fissures in Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens, with an estimated 22 fissures having opened as recent as Monday, May 21st 2018 in Puna. To no surprise, due to this increase in volcanic activity this has brought about the influx of information given by the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) to residents and new questions that prompt aid now from the NWS (National Weather Service).
According to the USGS, “Geology efforts address major societal issues that involve geologic hazards and disasters, climate variability and change, energy and mineral resources, ecosystem and human health, and ground-water availability.” With this, it is to be expected that the USGS and geologists alike are studying the impacts of the most recent fissures and eruption cycle of Kilauea. In addition to such work with monitoring the East Rift Zone activity, advance of lava flows, earthquake activity, such a localized volcanic event has also produced ashfall, gas emissions and are thus warning residents of potential hazards associated with Kilauea. However such hazards come with observational limitations that the USGS cannot resolve.
Queue the NWS and it’s team of meteorologists and atmospheric scientists.
The NWS states, “meteorology is the science concerned with the Earth’s atmosphere and it’s physical processes. A meteorologist is a physical scientist who observes, studies, or forecasts the weather.” While not entirely obvious as to why the NWS is needed during this current eruption, Geologists often observe the geologic feature (here being Kilauea), the hazard of this volcano, its transformation, significance, relation to seismic activity, and advancement of lava flows, however once the eruption reaches the troposphere, (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere extending approximately 10 kilometers) the issue at hand becomes one for a meteorologist. The troposphere is the layer humans live in, with nearly all weather occurring in the troposphere. This is of interest as once a volcano such as Kilauea erupts, ashfall becomes a potential hazard for residents, including the increase of particulate matter into the atmosphere this brings concern for acidic rainfall, and redirection of flight patterns in and around the Hawaiian Islands as trade winds and the jet stream influence lower and upper level wind movement of the particulate matter.
This most recent volcanic activity has allowed for the coordination of geologists and meteorologists to provide residents in the East Rift zone with information on fissures, gas emissions, Vog (volcanic smog), lava inundation, ashfall propagation, and any advisories/watches/warnings associated with Kilauea.
For more information on Kilauea and other natural disasters developing, visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© 2018 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen