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Hawaiian Volcano Celebrates 30 Years of Constant Activity

Mar 20, 2013 12:17 PM EDT

Today is an exciting day for the Kilauea Volcano: not only does its hotspot Halem'uma'u crater celebrate five years of ongoing eruption, but the volcano as a whole celebrates 30 years of constant activity.

Halema'uma'u first burst opened at 2:58 a.m. HST on March 19, 2008, through an explosive eruption that resulted in a hole nearly 115 feet wide.

Since 2008, rock collapses within the vent have increased the vent's size. Today, it measure 520 feet by 700 feet, the equivalent of 21 Olympic-sized pools; it emits an average of 800 to 1,200 tons of sulfur dioxide every day, according to a press release from the U.S. Geological Survey.

To celebrate the anniversary, the U.S. Geological Survey will be holding special presentations overlooking the crater's fuming summit vent.

Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando is especially excited about the celebration, according to the press release.

"The amazing beauty of this eruption, and the ease of viewing opportunities within Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, provides both visitors and residents with unforgettable experiences," she said. "Where else in the world can you park your car, and walk just a few feet to behold the spectacle of one of the world's most active volcanoes?"

For a long time, Kilauea was not recognized as a separate, independent volcano. According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, for a long time Kileau was considered a satellite of the much larger Mauna Loa.

As it turns out, Kilauea has a magma-plumbing system that goes more than 37 miles deep into the earth - as system that led to a 1983 explosion that continues today with lava flowing nearly 7 miles into the sea.

In all, there have been 34 eruptions since 1952 and scientists estimate the first eruption took place between 300,000 and 600,000 years ago.

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