Lava from Mauna Loa’s eruption was apparently directed away from homes in the volcano’s southwestern rift zone on Monday, offering at least temporary respite to homeowners in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates and other more at-risk areas . But the new eruption reopens old questions about where development should be allowed and under what conditions.
Hawaii County is still buying properties impacted by the latest devastating eruption of the Kilauea Volcano, which destroyed more than 700 homes in the Leilani Estates and Kapoho areas in 2018.
Can Lava Melt Your Skin?
While dipping your hand into molten rock won’t cause instant death, it will leave you with severe, painful burns — and this is “the kind that destroys nerve endings, destroys subcutaneous fat, and makes me feel cold,” David Damby, senior research chemist at US Geological. If you enter a lava flow, this story is over.
An example is wood. It is the most used of all. There is a difference between ice or chocolate in the amount of heat used to melt the wood; ice typically has a higher melting point and chocolate generally holds a lower heat rate, which makes wood a liquid object to melt.
For historical perspective, Dave and Charlene send me to talk to Joya and Bobu Folger, two longtime local residents and enlightened seekers who saw lava flood the old Kalapana Gardens in 1990. They live in a wooded area nearby, but have built a shed over the lava, which they name the Om Shrine after their late son, Om. I find them there unloading dozens of old wine jugs filled with water from their car, which they have brought to water the cacti, ti plants, and other foliage growing in the red dirt they have brought to the shrine over the years. Their daughter, Shakti, and her husband, Mike, came with them.
When volcanic rock material mixes with water, often from melting snow and glacier ice on the flanks of a volcano, a debris flow called lahar. These are like concrete that flows and rolls down valleys around the flanks of composite volcanoes and incorporate valley materials (rocks, trees, water) as they flow and can greatly increase in size down the slope. And they can travel fast – 100km/h or more sweeping away everything in their path – houses, bridges, roads, railway lines, light poles.
Mount Rainier in Washington State USA has produced some dramatic lahars in the past. About 5600 years ago a lahar tore down the slopes of the volcano and covered the areas on which parts of Seattle are now built. The potential for future lahars in suburban Seattle is high and is considered to be the major risk posed by the volcano.