The 2018 eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, which oozed fresh lava for over three months, was its biggest in the past 200 years.
In a recent paper, scientists who have been monitoring the activity of the volcano unloaded fresh data about the dramatic sequence of events that unfolded last summer. They revealed that the volcano spilled lava equivalent to 300,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, transforming the landscape and adding more than a square mile to the coastline.
Kilauea Volcano's Powerful Eruption
Scientists confirmed that the eruption, which started in May, was caused by a piston-style caldera collapse. From May to August, a total of 62 small collapse events took place, causing the volcano to sink. By the time the eruption ended, the crater of the volcano sank by 500 meters.
Kilauea's caldera deflated before, but not as much as what happened over the summer. In 100 years of modern monitoring of the volcano, scientists recorded that Kilauea's caldera dropped "tens of centimeters to maybe one meter" per event.
"Each of those 62 almost-daily events was still larger than any of the other subsidence events we've measured with modern geophysical instruments," Emily Montgomery Brown, a research geophysicist at USGS and one of the authors of the study, told Popular Mechanics.
People initially believed that groundwater triggered the caldera collapse, but the scientists behind the paper found that that was not the case. Mike Poland, a volcanologist from USGS and also an author of the study, admitted to Earther that they still do not know what exactly tipped off the eruption or why it stopped seemingly so abruptly.
Kilauea Won't Stay Quiet
It has been three months since the volcano stopped spewing lava, but scientists warned that the volcano is not done yet. While the volcano seems quiet at the moment, it is still much active.
Scientists are also monitoring Mauna Loa, a nearby volcano which, according to history, acts up when Kilauea sleeps. Christina Neal, a co-author of the study and a head scientist at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, revealed that Mauna Loa has already shown signs of activity.
"We're seeing a little bit of inflation at Mauna Loa and some earthquake swarms where it had been active," she said. "So that's another issue of concern for us going into the future."