6 Things to Know About Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Eruption

By Sarah Parsons, Liz Saccoccia and Francis Gassert

Hawaii’s Kilauea eruption continues to make headlines, as new fissures open and lava engulfs trees, cars and homes in the Big Island’s Leilani Estates area.

But there’s more to this story. Satellite and other near-real time data on Resource Watch provide context about volcanoes and the Kilauea eruption:

1.) Kilauea is one of four active volcanoes on Hawaii’s Big Island.

While Kilauea is the world’s longest continually erupting volcano, it is just one of four active volcanoes on the Big Island. There are five active volcanoes in Hawaii overall, and one additional volcano off the coast of the Big Island.

2.) Kilauea has erupted 96 times over the past 6,700 years.

The current eruption actually began in 1983 — lava has been flowing from Kilauea’s Puu Oo crater ever since. The recent devastation in Leilani Estates is the result of new fissures opening miles away from Puu Oo.

3.) Leilani Estates isn’t the only area affected by flowing lava right now.

Leilani Estates is getting lots of news attention because it is a populated neighborhood. Purple areas of the map below reveal a high population density; yellow dots indicate intense heat, as detected by NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS), likely due to lava flows and/or fires.

Clusters of yellow dots also indicate intense heat in two other areas — at the Halema’uma’u crater in the center of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and in the lava fields of Kahauale’a Natural Area Reserve. There aren’t people or infrastructure in these areas, but they are home to forests and plants like endangered ferns.

4.) Air quality would be worse, but wind is blowing smoke off the island.

Although Kilauea’s eruption is destroying homes and spewing toxic sulfur dioxide gas, air pollution is not as bad as it could be: Due to current wind direction, smoke is blowing out to sea instead of further inland.

5.) More than 20 volcanoes displayed activity this week.

Many people don’t realize that there is volcanic activity every week around the world – from ash production to full-blown eruptions. According to the Weekly Volcano Report from the Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Geological Service, 23 volcanoes displayed activity last week. Nine of them—in Hawaii, Japan, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Reunion Island and Russia—experienced new activity, while 14 have been experiencing ongoing activity for some time.

6.) There are more than 900 active volcanoes in the world.

These are volcanoes that have erupted at least once in the past 12,000 years. Check out the closest one to you in the map below.

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