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Dana Hunter
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Kilauea's most recent lava flows reached the sea over the weekend, and they've been beach bumming ever since. Few things are as dramatic as molten rock contending with seawater. We'll be talking about all the neato things that are happening and that we may see if the eruption continues. We're starting with LAZE, which in this case isn't something you do on a hot summer afternoon. It's this:

When blazing hot lava meets seawater, the interaction between them boils the water and produces enormous plume of mist, called LAZE (lava haze). These plumes are, of course, mostly water vapor, but they are so much more than that. They're acidic beasts carrying appreciable amounts of hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulfate anion, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, plus traces of volcanic glass and other particles. Even if you could find a safe place near where the lava is pouring into the ocean, you wouldn't want to be hanging out there without industrial-grade protection.

Sounds super scary, right? Well, it's concerning. But don't panic. It, like so many of Kilauea's other dangers, is something you can protect yourself against with a little common sense and caution. And it's really pretty neat.

Ugh, I don't know what I wanna write about Kilauea next.

Erik Klemetti already did a piece on splosions we can expect.

Earther did a debunk of the terrible misinformation going round.

And those were my two favorite ideas!

So, I'm kinda left with maybe doing a piece on why people live in the East Rift Zone, or talk about something else, like the actual mechanic of basaltic volcano explosions (or: Why Kilauea is nothing like Krakatoa), or East Rift Zone eruptions of the past, or... something.

What are you all wanting to know about Kilauea?

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Volcanoes typically give warning before they erupt, but that warning may only be hours. You could be left with little or no time to prepare. May is Volcano Awareness Month in Washington State, and with the Kilauea eruption in Leilani Estates causing more evacuations, now is an excellent time for us all to find out if we're living in or visiting volcano country. If so, it's time to prepare.

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Things remain pretty heated in Hawaii. The Leilani Estates eruption continues apace, at least thirty-five homes have been destroyed, and there's no sign the lava will stop any time soon. What comes next, no one knows for sure; but judging from the ongoing seismic activity in the area, and the continued opening of new fissures, it looks like the eruption certainly won't be ending this week.

So, what's been going on since Friday?
Leilani Estates Eruption: No End in Sight
Leilani Estates Eruption: No End in Sight
blogs.scientificamerican.com

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Things got incredibly exciting in Hawaii over the last week. Kilauea's East Rift Zone showed an abrupt uptick in seismic activity on Monday afternoon, showing that magma was on the move. No one knew if it would actually erupt; magma often goes traveling without showing up on the surface, and this was in an area that hadn't seen activity in the past. But everyone was on high alert – especially when cracks began to appear in one of the Big Island's newest subdivisions.

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That whole biological evolution thing that Charles Darwin figured out quite often makes people ignore the fact he was a first-rate geologist as well. While collecting meticulous samples of the flora and fauna he encountered on his voyages with the H.M.S. Beagle, he also thoroughly investigated the geology of the places they visited. And he discovered things no other person had discovered before; understood processes no one before him had figured out. If he hadn't become famous as the man who co-discovered evolution, he still would have been noted as one of the fathers of geology. And the Galapagos Islands would have remained central to his scientific discoveries.

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One of my main missions in life is to entice kids into the earth sciences. As part of this agenda, I found a book about Surtsey and bought it. Even for kids who may be ho-hum about science, this is going to be an easy hook: it's a volcano that suddenly appeared and became a brand-new island!

It's things exactly like this that distracted your own humble author from unicorns and fairies and got her real interested in how the earth works. So, if you're wanting to reel a kid in to the earth sciences, this is basically bait and hook in one easy package.

Surtsey: The Newest Place on Earth by Kathryn Lasky is everything you ever needed or wanted to get a child's eyes popping.

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There aren't many times when you can be in medias res and at the beginning simultaneously, but this is one. It's the middle of the Quartzville field trip; it's where the story of Quartzville's modest mineral wealth begins. A place like this should have a name of suitable grandeur. Visually, it's rather stunning.

So why the tarnation did people name it Yellowbottom?

The River Falls Over a Hydrothermal Heart
The River Falls Over a Hydrothermal Heart
blogs.scientificamerican.com

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There are a few non-fiction books that can transport you through time and space, science and culture, and constantly delight you with unexpected cameos. Gillian Darley's Vesuvius is one.

For as famous as Vesuvius is, there aren't actually that many books about it. Plenty of books like to talk extensively about Pompeii, with only a few bare facts about the volcano that simultaneously destroyed and preserved it. Plenty of books about volcanology dedicate a chapter to it. But as far as books just about the volcano, there's just a few, and one of those is written by my least favorite volcano writer. So I was quite excited to find Gillian's book, and more excited still to discover that she's a skilled wordsmith.

She starts off with the intriguing experience of a fake Vesuvius, built by a German prince. And from the beginning we're immersed in the narrative, fighting a raging storm in a small boat, and from there, introduced to a volcano that has enthralled countless scientists and laypeople since Pliny the Elder and Younger. It may seem bizarre to begin a book about the real volcano by introducing us to an artificial one, but there's good purpose to this. Prince Franz is the first of many people we'll meet who found themselves captivated to obsession by Vesuvius.

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A caldera eruption is a massively violent thing. We’re not talking the quiet calderas in shield volcanoes like Mauna Loa and Kilauea, which love erupting and frequently pour burning hot stuff all over the landscape, but generally stick to easygoing lava flows that allow people to get out of the way. We’re not even talking about Fernandina Island, which had a caldera collapse in 1968 and is too dangerous for Galapagos-goers to visit. No, we’re talking about the kinds of eruptions that happen fast, big and explosively.

We’re talking about the kinds of eruptions that hurl ash and pumice so high and so far that the landscape for hundreds or thousands of miles around is blanketed in thick, choking ash. We’re talking about eruptions that bury landscapes for hundreds of square miles in pumice fields tens of feet thick.

We’re talking about the kind of eruption whose traces are still fresh and clear more than seven thousand years later.

The Long Reach of Mount Mazama
The Long Reach of Mount Mazama
blogs.scientificamerican.com
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