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Spectacular But Deadly: How Hawaii's Overflowing Lava from Kilauae is Bad News

Aug 20, 2016 06:27 AM EDT
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Kilauea Lava
HAWAII - JUNE 6: Lava pours into the ocean from Kilauea Volcano on June 6, 2004 at Volcanoes National Park near Volcano, Hawaii. Lava from Kilauea has reached the ocean for the first time in nearly a year. (Photo by Marco Garcia/Getty Images)
(Photo : Marco Garcia / Stringer)

Most volcanic eruptions are terrifying prospects, but for the Kilauea Volcano - which has been spewing out lava continuously for 30 years - it has become more of a tourist spectacle than anything else, especially now that the lava has flown into the Pacific Ocean. Here's why the volcano can still spell bad news for the island.

Unstable land. According to a report from Hawaii News Now, people angling to take a better look at the lava deltas should be very careful about their activity. Lava deltas are new land formed by the lava entering the sea.

"Lava deltas are deceptively stable looking," Janet Babb, a spokesperson with USGS Hawai'i Volcano Observatory, explained. "You see it and think, 'Gosh, that's the place I need to be to see lava up close and personal', but the near lava is hiding a foundation of rubble that is extremely unstable."

Explosions. Yes, it's not just the hot lava that tourists should watch out for, but also the interactions between different natural elements. When sizzling hot lava and the cool ocean water meet, it can create steam explosions that are dangerous with hydrochloric acid and shards of volcanic glass.

Babb said, "We talk about concerns for people on shore, but it's equally hazardous for people on the water because if a delta collapses and an explosion occurs all that debris is going to be blown out in all directions."

More violent eruptions. In general, Kilauea's activities throughout the years have remained mostly non-explosive, but according to a report from New Zealand Herald, there have been a few terrifying casualties. In 1924, an eruption threw ash and 10-tonne rocks into the sky, resulting in the death of a man. Puu Oo's 1983 eruption saw the lava shooting out up to 450 meters high and even the decades-long lava flow have destroyed a lot of homes and land.

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