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NASA Satellite Images Give A Look At Hawaii Volcano Fissures From Space

May 09, 2018 12:24 AM EDT
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NASA captures Hawaii's new volcanic fissures from space, releasing satellite photos of the new and dangerous hot spots in the islands.

The Kilauea Volcano has been erupting for over 30 years, but when powerful earthquakes hit Hawaii starting April 30, the seismic activity prompted gas and lava to burst through the ground in newly created fissures.

The NASA Photos

NASA's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on the Terra satellite shot the images of the fissures on May 6. In the image above, the newly formed fissures and new lava flow are identified as the yellow areas as detected by ASTER.

A second photo from NASA show yellow and green streaks that represent the plumes of sulfur dioxide gas.

The images allow scientists to track the movement of lava and sulfur dioxide.

New Volcanic Activity In Hawaii

NASA's Earth Observatory revealed that a lava lake overflowed numerous times in the last week of April 2018. When the crater partially collapsed, the lake drained and magma traveled underground causing earthquakes to hit Kilauea's East Rift Zone. Within days, a number of fissures cracked the ground open, spewing lava and wreaking havoc in the Leilani Estates subdivision.

Scientists are still not sure what caused the crater to collapse or the magma to get drained from the system, but volcanologist Wendy Stovall of the U.S. Geological Survey offers two possibilities for the occurrence.

"Either there's an increase in magma supply, or something blocked the system, something blocked the pathway out of the system," she tells NPR.

More sulfur dioxide are also being released as the magma reaches the surface.

"The process is similar to what happens when a bottle of soda is opened," Ashley Davies, a volcanologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains to Earth Observatory. "The bubbles of sulfur dioxide and other volatiles, including water and carbon dioxide, begin to rise through the liquid magma and concentrate in the magma closest to the surface, so the first lava to erupt is often the most volatile-rich. There's usually an increase in sulfur dioxide output right before lava reaches the surface, as the gas escapes from the ascending magma."

The dramatic changes in the island's volcanic landscape have proven to be a devastating event for Hawaii.

The latest Hawaii's Civil Defense Agency alert reported 14 volcanic fissures as of Tuesday, May 8. The lava spans 104 acres with 35 structures already destroyed.

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