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USGS: Threat of Even Larger Steam-Driven Violent Explosion

May 16, 2018, 4:36 PM HST (Updated May 16, 2018, 10:20 PM)
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The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announces that with ash eruptions occurring from Kīlauea’s summit this week, there is a threat of an even larger steam-driven violent explosion. Such an eruption could happen suddenly and send volcanic ash 20,000 feet into the air, threatening communities for miles. USGS and NOAA’s National Weather Service are working together to observe, model and warn the public of hazardous conditions. Here is where you can find the information you need to stay safe.

This photo was taken on Tuesday May 15, 2018, At 11:05 a.m. Photograph from the Jaggar Museum, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, captures an ash plume rising from the Overlook crater. Ash falling from the plume can be seen just to the right side (and below) the plume. (USGS Photo)

Observations and Status of Kīlauea

While the ​USGS Hawai‘i Volcanoes Observatory​ is positioning staff to observe the volcano and best communicate its status and evolution, they rely heavily on the weather forecasts from NOAA. Wind forecasts, ​along with dispersion models such as HYSPLIT,​ are critical in understanding where sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) will disperse from fissures and vents to ensure safety of USGS observers, emergency managers and the public.

Ashfall Advisories, Warnings and Current Weather Forecast from Honolulu

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018 the National Weather Service issued the first ever ashfall advisory for Hawai‘i. Forecasters will issue ashfall advisories and warnings when ashfall is a hazard. NOAA predicts where an ash plume will go and how much ash will accumulate using USGS’s ​Ash3d Volcanic Ash Dispersion Model​.

Volcanic Ash Advisories​ and ​Aviation Warnings

Volcanic ash clouds can threaten air traffic by sandblasting windscreens, clogging pitot tubes, and in severe cases, causing jet engines to shut down. NOAA issues volcanic ash warnings to alert pilots to potential ash in the atmosphere and will include volcanic ash in forecasts for airports.

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Tips to Stay Safe

During explosive eruptions, volcanic ash can disrupt downwind populations by causing breathing problems, impacting water quality, clogging air filters, shorting out power systems and making transportation difficult.​ If your community is threatened by ash, you are advised to do the following:

  • Seal windows and doors.
  • Protect electronics and cover air intakes and open water sources.
  • Avoid driving as visibility will be reduced and roads may become slippery.
  • Remain indoors to avoid inhaling ash particles unless it’s absolutely necessary to go outside. If you have a respiratory illness, do not go outside.
  • If you must go outside, cover your mouth and nose with a mask or cloth.
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