The mystery of the Hawaiian volcano has been solved – scientists have found an explanation for a new type of volcanic eruption

In May 2018, the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupted, sending ash to a height of over 9 km, and a lava flow caused significant destruction in the cities located below the mountain. And although volcanic eruptions on Earth occur almost every day, the event in Hawaii attracted the attention of scientists from all over the world, and they studied it for six years. The thing is that it was not like all the others, since it included 12 explosions of equal power. Ultimately, the researchers were able to figure out the reason for this unusual behavior of Kilauea, as a result of which a new type of eruption was discovered.

The mystery of the Hawaiian volcano has been solved - scientists have found an explanation for a new type of volcanic eruption. The eruption of the Kilauea volcano. Photo source: Photo.

Eruption of Kilauea volcano. Photo source:

Types of volcanic eruptions

Explosive volcanic eruptions are of two types: phreatic or plinian. In the first case, the explosion occurs as a result of contact of magma with a large amount of groundwater. The instantaneous evaporation of water leads to a thermal explosion, which is accompanied by the release of stones, ash and lava bombs.

A Plinian eruption is an eruption in which fragmented lava is ejected in the form of a gas-ash mixture under high pressure. Eruptions of this type are the most powerful. They are accompanied by massive ash precipitation over large areas. In this case, several cubic kilometers of magma, as well as stone blocks, can be thrown onto the surface at a speed of up to several hundred meters per second.

The name “Plinian eruption” comes from the name of the Roman scientist Pliny the Elder, who died while watching eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

In practice, most often volcanic eruptions are of a mixed type, that is, they are caused by two different factors at once. However, the Kilauea volcano eruption in 2018 did not belong to either type, which has puzzled scientists.

Types of volcanic eruptions. The eruption of the Kilauea volcano turned out to be unlike other known eruptions. Photo source: Photo.

The eruption of the Kilauea volcano was unlike other known eruptions. Photo source:

The mystery of the Kilauea volcano eruption

Perhaps if any other volcano had erupted, the reasons would have remained a mystery to this day. However, scientists have been observing the Kilauea volcano for a long time, so it is covered with a large number of sensors. This made it possible to record all changes both during the eruption and before this event. As mentioned above, scientists recorded 12 explosions over 10 days. But what is most unusual is that all these explosions were the same in power.

According to researchers, the lava flows that caused great damage to populated areas arose as a result of the release of magma from an underground reservoir located 40 kilometers away from the populated area. During the study, scientists concluded that a series of earthquakes led to the release of magma, as a result of which the earth's crust sank, which led to an increase in pressure in the reservoir. This caused magmas to burst to the surface.

In addition to magma, the reservoir contained magmatic gas and rubble, which were also ejected as a result of increased pressure in the reservoir. Scientists call these processes the “stomping rocket” effect, after the toy rocket, also known as an “air rocket,” which can be launched by a stream of air by stomping on a cushion of air.

The mystery of the Kilauea volcanic eruption. The «stomping rocket» toy, after which a new type of volcanic eruption was named. Photo.

True, it is not yet possible to prove that the cause of the ejection was precisely the “stomping rocket” effect. However, scientists conducted simulations that showed that their version is plausible, as reported in the journal Nature Geoscience. But why did this type of emission occur for the first time?

Scientists believe that volcanic calderas often collapse as a result of earthquakes, but circumstances are not always conducive to launching a rocket. But, most likely, similar eruptions still happened many times. They were not discovered for the reason that volcanologists simply did not have information. Presumably, the stomping rocket effect was the cause of the powerful eruption of the same volcano in 1924.

The mystery of the Kilauea volcano eruption. The Kilauea volcano in Hawaii may not be the first to erupt as a result of the stomping rocket effect. Photo source: Photo.

It is noteworthy that modern technology, that is, data from sensors together with computer modeling, has made it possible to discover a new type of volcanic eruption. The data obtained will allow scientists to better predict and assess the dangers associated with volcanic eruptions.

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Finally, we note that the eruption of Kilauea in 2018, although it was powerful, this volcano is far from the most dangerous. There are volcanoes, the eruption of which can lead to a catastrophe on a global scale. You can find out more about them by following the link.