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‘Ballistic blocks’ shoot from Hawaii volcano, may mark start of violent eruptions

 

“Ballistic blocks” the size of microwave ovens shot from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on Wednesday in what may be the start of explosive eruptions that could spew huge ash plumes and hurl smaller rocks for miles (km), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Such eruptions, last seen nearly a century ago, have been a looming threat since Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted nearly two weeks ago. Explosions in Kilauea’s crater sparked an aviation red alert due to risks the ash plume could blow into aircraft routes and damage jet engines.

More explosions are expected and may be more powerful, the USGS warned. These steam-driven blasts could send a 20,000-foot (6,100-meter) ash plume out of the crater, hurling 10-12 ton boulders up to half a mile (800 meters) and scatter pebble-sized rocks over 12 miles (19 km), the USGS has said.

This type of eruption has the potential to carpet the Big Island in much thicker ash than current dustings and possibly spread the powder and volcanic smog across the Hawaiian islands and farther afield if it enters the stratosphere.

“This morning dense ballistic blocks up to 60 cm (2 feet) across were found in the parking lot a few hundred yards (meters) from Halemaumau (Kilauea’s crater),” the USGS said in a statement. “These reflect the most energetic explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven explosive activity.

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake at the volcano at 8.36 a.m. (2:36 p.m. EDT) prompted authorities to issue an alert reassuring rattled Big Island residents that there was no risk of a tsunami from the volcanic activity.  Read More

 

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