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Kilauea volcano aids earthquake studies

Jan. 4, 2013 at 3:23 PM   |   Comments

HILO, Hawaii, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The 30-year-long eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is its longest since the 15th century and it has added 500 acres of land to the island, researchers say.

The long-term and constant activity has given scientists a greater knowledge of how volcanoes work, they said.

The U.S Geological Survey's Hawaii Volcano Observatory uses a network of cameras, seismic stations and field sampling to study the volcano and allows it to predict the path of lava flows much like floods.

"We have a much better understanding of the system as a whole," HVO scientist Jim Kauahikaua said. "We know a lot more about the tectonic mechanics of how Kilauea works, about where earthquakes occur and why, and what types of earthquakes occur, and gas emissions and what they indicate."

For the past 2,500 years Kilauea has seen periods of sporadic explosive eruptions about 60 percent of the time and stretches of extrusive, or quiet, eruptions -- like the current one -- about 40 percent of the time, researchers said.

"Kilauea will be a very different place when it reverts to an explosive period, the latest of which lasted for 300 years between about 1500 and 1800," USGS scientist Don Swanson told OurAmazingPlanet. "The explosive eruption in 1790 probably killed several hundred people, making Kilauea the most lethal volcano in the United States."

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