Why the Kilauea eruption in Hawaii is not explosive

Magma composition plays a big part in whether a volcanic eruption is explosive or nonexplosive. Here’s why the recent Hawaii eruption ended up being a gentle one.


NSFW    HAWAII — At least 26 homes have been destroyed by Hawaii’s Kilauea eruption, which began last week and is still ongoing.

But according to Earther, next to violent volcanic eruptions in places like Iceland, the U.S. or the Philippines, Kilauea’s is actually rather gentle.

One of the main reasons for this, according to Oregon State University, is magma composition.

The Hawaiian islands sit atop a hotspot on the Pacific Plate, which has magma that’s low in silica, and therefore less viscous.

Volcanic gases like carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and water vapor can more easily escape in this type of magma. There’s little pressure buildup, resulting in an effusive eruption.

Other volcanoes, such as those on the Pacific Ring of Fire, typically occur where the oceanic plates meet the silica-rich continental plates.

The high silica content results in highly viscous magma, which traps gas bubbles and causes the buildup of pressure that then results in explosive eruptions.

According to a Denison University volcanologist, it’s possible groundwater can mix with the iron-rich lava in Hawaii to create more boom.

That hasn’t happened...yet, and for the islanders’ sake, here’s hoping it never does.
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