The island of Hawaii is composed of five volcanoes, three of which have been active within the last two hundred years. One of these active volcanoes is Mt. Kilauea which is located in Kauai, one of the eight islands that make up the state of Hawaii. This island is home to over 65,000 people who experience Mt. Kilauea’s eruptions. This volcano erupts frequently and and can last up to months.
Mt. Kilauea is a currently erupting shield volcano. A shield volcano is a broad-based, dome volcano with gently sloping sides. This volcano makes up the south-eastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii. It rises at about 4,190 feet above sea level and is about 14% of the land area. To the casual observer, Kilauea appears to be part of the larger volcano Mauna Loa, but geological data indicates that it is a separate volcano with its own vent and conduit system. Kilauea has had more than 60 recorded eruptions in the current cycle and has been erupting on a continuous basis since 1983.
As far as plant and wildlife is concerned with these frequent eruptions, the plants are destroyed over a wide area but the good thing is that volcanic soil is very rich, so once everything cools off, plants can easily grow back. Livestock and other mammals have been killed by lava flows, pyroclastic flows, tephra falls, atmospheric effects, gases, and tsunami. They can also die from famine, forest fires, and earthquakes caused by or related to eruptions.
Basaltic volcanoes, like Kilauea, can contribute to significant changes in the climate through large emissions of chlorine and bromine. Kilauea is emitting around 15,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per day. In reality, massive eruptions are more likely to cool the Earth than warm it. In fact, the most significant climate impacts from volcanic injections into the stratosphere come from the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid.
The eruptions of Mt. Kilauea could not have been prevented and they are not sure it will ever stop erupting. The most recent eruption, in May of 2018 is still erupting to this day and scientists are not sure when it will end. It is said that it could last weeks, months, or even years. This eruption has caused a stream of frequent eruptions and thousands of earthquakes. Neighborhoods have been engulfed by lava and so far, over 706 homes have been destroyed. The lava has already changed the big island in several ways including adding around 690 acres of new land. No one knows when the current eruption will stop or when the next one will begin.
Kilauea is the Earth’s most visited active volcano. Unlike most other active volcanoes, Kilauea is approachable, is world-famous, and has been called the “drive-up” volcano because of the easy access to many of its areas of volcanic activity, especially the summit caldera. Mount Kilauea is a volcano that will not be soon forgotten, especially since it is still one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It brings tourists from all over. They come to appreciate an infamously active volcano in its element. Even today we still have things to discover about it.