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#PlumeTeam - tracing a massive Hawaiian eruption from source to exposed communities

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In May 2018 a dramatic change occurred at one of the world’s most active volcanoes. On the Island of Hawai’i, the eruptive activity of Kīlauea volcano shifted to the north-east as a series of fissures opened up in the quiet leafy neighbourhood of the Leilani Estates. At the same time, the famous Halemaʻumaʻu lava lake sunk out of sight and the summit caldera collapsed, subsiding hundreds of metres and leading to the evacuation of the Hawai’i Volcano Observatory (HVO) building, now perched precariously on the edge of the crater wall. Declared a national emergency, the eruption was of unprecedented scale and presented an extreme monitoring challenge for the HVO of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

In July-August, a group of volcanologists from the Cambridge and Leeds universities headed out to Hawai’i at the invitation of the USGS , to sample the ongoing eruption. Our goal was to characterise the chemistry of the erupting plume from source to exposed communities around the island, with a special focus on the particulate aerosol phase of the volcanic plume(s).

Remarkably, the eruption ended on the final-day of our three-week campaign. It buried 716 houses, 35km2 of land and created 3.5km2 of new land where the vast lava flows reached the ocean. The question everyone wants to know the answer to now is what next for Kīlauea?

This talk is part of the Sedgwick Club talks series.

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