Explosive eruption rocks Hawaii's Kilauea volcano - USGS

Explosive eruption at Hawaii volcano

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano eruption launches plume of ash 9100 metres into the sky

But these golfers in Hawaii have rounds to go before they sleep.

Kīlauea, a massive shield volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, is the site of the world's longest ongoing eruption, one that has oozed lava since 1983.

A webcam at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory caught the aftermath of the short-lived eruption: an onslaught of wet, dusty ash raining on a darkened landscape.

Kilauea has been erupting now for two weeks but Thursday's episode saw its highest ash plume yet.

The water would then flash into steam, "and steam as we know is a very powerful source of energy, a very powerful propellant", Rowe said.

But clearly, not everyone was so anxious.

A spike in toxic sulfur dioxide gas closed schools around the village of Pahoa, 25 miles (40 km) east of the volcano, where lava from fissures has destroyed 37 homes and other structures and forced about 2,000 residents to evacuate.

"It's a real dynamic situation up there", she said of the summit.

And as for the so-called "big one", geologists say it's a waiting game.

Dennis Hoyt
Dennis Hoyt

Dense, large rocks roughly two feet in diameter (60 centimeters) were found in a parking lot a few hundred yards away from Kilauea's summit crater, which reflect the "most energetic explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven explosive activity", the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a statement, and continues to monitor activity.

Scientists warned on May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the summit might create conditions for an explosion that could fling ash and boulders the size of fridges into the air.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige complimented the response of residents and the pre-explosion work done by authorities.

"Protect yourself from ash fallout", it said.

The noxious gas, normally emitted at risky levels only from the volcano's Halemaumau Crater, was seeping at a greater rate from the fissures in Leilani Estates, a residential area of about four square miles in the Big Island's Puna district.

There have been no deaths or serious injuries reported during the current eruption.

Civil defense workers handed out one ash mask per family member in communities close to Kilauea to protect residents from the powdered rock, which is not poisonous but causes irritation to eyes and airways.

On Thursday, the volcano spewed ash almost six miles (9km) into the sky.

"So a big event that got people's attention but not with widespread impacts", Michelle Coombes said.

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