Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has been erupting continuously since our last report, and geologists are now warning that it may be entering a new phase of explosive eruption not seen in almost a century.

[United States Geological Survey] USGS scientist Tina O’Neal said Friday there are continuing high levels of earthquake activity and ground activity that suggests magma is still close to the surface. There were no eruptions overnight, but the O’Neal said the situation is still unstable.

Geologists are warning a possible explosion at the summit of Kilauea could be the largest in nearly 100 years, hurling boulders the size of refrigerators. Since last week, lava has been siphoning away for the volcano’s summit, breaking through the ground in the 15 fissures. As a result, lava levels inside the volcano’s main crater have been decreasing. If more rocks and boulders fall into the crater, it could create a blockage and pressurize steam as the lava reaches groundwater levels. The resulting explosion can blast rock and ash for miles.

In the most recently issued status update, Neal said, “The situation is still very dynamic here at Kilauea; we are watching it around the clock”.

Fortunately, the range of potential volcanic bombs would likely be limited.

Tina Neal, the scientist-in-charge of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory, said geologists don’t expect the summit eruption to be life-threatening so long as people stay out of the national park. Volcano and other nearby communities may be showered by pea-sized fragments or dusted with nontoxic ash but they aren’t expected to get hit by large boulders, she said.

Hawaii Governor David Ige just signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration request asking President Donald Trump to declare the State of Hawaii a “major disaster” because of Kilauea’s current eruption cycle.

Since May 3, the State of Hawaii and Hawaii County have spent more than $400,000 in emergency funds to protect life and property from lava flows and earthquakes that have occurred in the Kilauea East Rift Zone.

…According to the governor’s office, costs will “skyrocket” should air and/or sea evacuations become necessary.

“As more fissures open and toxic gas exposure increases, the potential of a larger scale evacuation increases,” said Gov. Ige in a statement. “A mass evacuation of the lower Puna District would be beyond current county and state capabilities, and would quickly overwhelm our collective resources.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been tracking Kilauea’s plume of has and sulfur-rich gas via satellite.

The information from the images acquired at different view angles is used to calculate the height of the plume, results of which are superimposed on the right-hand image. The top of the plume near the fissure is at approximately 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) altitude, and the height of the plume decreases as it travels south and west. These relatively low altitudes mean that the ash and sulfur dioxide remained near the ground, which can cause health issues for people on the island downwind of the eruption.

https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/jpl/ash-from-kilauea-eruption-viewed-by-nasas-misr

As of this post, 27 homes have been destroyed, 1,900 residents have been evacuated and thousands more are poised to do so, Hawaii National Volcanoes Park is closed, and crews are scrambling to remove ens of thousands of gallons of highly flammable chemicals from a geothermal power plant out of the path of the lava flows.

Prayers for everyone impacted by this eruption continue.