Geothermal Activity in Hawaii and Yellowstone National Park


Kaitlin Lee, Staff Writer

Despite not being active since Sept. 2014, the Steamboat geyser has suddenly shown a great jolt of energy. It has erupted three times since March this year, on Mar. 15, Apr. 19, and Apr. 27, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). This deviates from how many times it usually erupted before. According to USGS, it “doesn’t erupt that often, sometimes going decades between activity”. However, these eruptions were much smaller than previous ones and park rangers assure there is nothing to worry about.

“Geysers tend to be random, so this is not at all unexpected behavior” stated Michael Poland, a scientist at the USGS Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. He also said these eruptions will have “no bearing on volcanic activity at Yellowstone.”

However, this is unfortunately not the case in Hawaii. On May 3, Thursday, the most active volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, Kilauea, erupted. Shortly after, the ground split open on the east side of the Leilani Estates, a subdivision of the island’s eastern Puna district. The gash revealed a fiery, bubbling red of molten rock.  Residents were told to flee because of the threat of fire and dangerously rising carbon dioxide levels. Several inhabitants believed it was Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, taking back her land. More fissures formed, releasing noxious gases and splattering magma that went as tall as 330 feet in the air.

As of the morning of May 7, 10 fissure vents have been reported and at least 26 homes and another 9 structures have been destroyed. An estimated amount of 1,800 people live in the affected area and have found refuge with friends, shelters, or surrounding islands. A select number have been allowed to go back to retrieve pets, important items, and medicine left behind in the sudden evacuation. However, they were told to be ready to leave quickly because of the toxicity of the air. Residents were not allowed to go to Lanipuna Gardens because the levels of the hazardous gas were considered too dangerous. Lava flows disrupted electricity and water supply, and officials were working to build a temporary water line to restore water for Kapoho, Vacationland, and Pohoiki. Several schools reopened on May 7, and the eruption has not affected tourism at all.

However, the magma flow shows no end in the near future. “This is a very fast-moving situation,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim told Hawaii News Now. “This is unfortunately not the end.” And as the eruption continues, hundreds of people are displaced and may not come back home for a long time, not just because of the magma, but also because of the noxious gas. One can only hope Pele will soon retreat and leave the inhabitants of Hawaii alone until she comes back again.

Photo courtesy of ABCNEWS.COM