Monday, 28 May 2018

HAWAII: Kilauea Volcano Eruption Kills Tourism

The eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano that has destroyed dozens of homes on the Big Island and forced thousands to flee is also resulting in the loss of an estimated millions of dollars in tourism revenue.

We're seeing that hotel booking pace for June, July and August has slowed down almost 50 percent from normal, says Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

Booking cancellations are now legion, from the highest luxury hotel, down to the smallest bed and breakfast, he said.

And as mainlanders who planned to take cruises, guided tours and earth science workshops bail, Birch said, some businesses that cater to them are closing or laying off workers.

Hawaii's tourism industry on the Big Island had visitor spending of around $2.4 billion in 2017, according to the state tourism authority.

Particularly hard hit are tour guides that operate solely in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The park and surrounding gateway areas in 2017 drew $166 million in visitor spending that supports more than 2,000 jobs, according to the National Park Service. As Kilauea erupted and the ground shook, the park closed May 11.

We're at a grinding halt until the national park reopens, says Erik Storm, owner of Kilauea EcoGuides.

Eighty-two structures have been destroyed in the Kilauea eruptions, which began on May 3, a spokesman with Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Friday.

Many of those structures are believed to have been destroyed by lava, spokesperson David Mace said.

Even attractions that are beyond a safe distance from the eruption affecting the southeastern side of the Big Island are feeling the effects.

Naturally, there have been cancellations that have come through, says Simon Amos, a hotel manager based in the popular destination of Waikoloa Village, on the opposite side of the Big Island.

A lot of people around the world are concerned about what’s going on.

Kilauea has been erupting since 1983, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Kilauea’s summit has seen explosive eruptions since the current eruptive period began, and ash emissions from the summit continued Saturday, with plumes reaching around 12,000 feet, according to the USGS.

The first outbreak of lava, which occurred on May 3, followed days of earthquake activity, the agency said.

The region was hit with a 6.9-magnitude temblor on May 4, the USGS said.

Tourism officials say Hawaii's Big Island has lost about $3 million for May, June and July.
Birch said that Norwegian Cruise Lines will resume visits to Kona on the west side of the island May 30 but skip Hilo on the east side, roughly 30 miles from the active Kilauea volcano.

Birch said that the good news is those individuals that had planned on coming are still coming, they're going to be our best advocates at promoting what you can do and how you can enjoy the island.

The classic idea of a volcanic eruption typically brings to mind smoke and ash blasting kilometres into the sky, and thick lava overflowing from the summit of a cone-shaped mountain.

The eruption from Kilauea doesn't match this scenario, though, since the volcanoes of the Hawaiian islands are known as shield volcanoes, which produce lava that is more fluid, and is more often seen erupting from cracks near the volcano's base.

The violent fountaining of lava from these fissures is caused by the rapid formation and expansion of gas bubbles in the lava, which forces the molten rock from the narrow fissure opening at high speed.

Fissure fountains can often reach up to 100 metres high, but can get up to 500 metres high at times.

There is so much gas in this fountaining lava that, standing near it, one can actually hear the lava hissing and fizzing, as if it were soda pop.

The threat from the Kilauea eruption is not only from the lava.

The gases being released from the lava fissures, directly into the air, include sulphur dioxide, which is hazardous on its own, potentially causing irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat for anyone coming into contact with it and breathing it in, and also breathing problems in higher concentrations.

Combined with air, dust and water vapour, though, it produces sulphuric acid, resulting in a toxic layer of volcanic smog, or vog.

In addition, as lava reaches the shoreline and pours into the ocean, it evaporates large quantities of seawater to form what is known as lava haze, or laze.

Fortunately, given Hawaii's location in the middle of the ocean, the trade winds tend to keep clean air flowing over the island, keeping vog and laze from accumulating and causing significant, long-term problems.

Lava from shield volcanoes such as those in the Hawaiian islands, tends to be low-viscosity, so it flows almost as easily as water, only slowing as it cools, when it is in contact with air or water.

Mixed in with this fluid lava, though, there can be large semi-solid chunks of molten rock.

As the lava violently erupts from the fissures, these semi-solid chunks can be launched quite high into the air, to land some distance away.

These semi-solid chunks are known as volcanic bombs, or lava bombs.

As they fly though the air, their outer surface cools and hardens, and they take on aerodynamic shapes, like spheres or footballs.

Depending on how long they spend in the air, and thus how long their surface cools, they can take on different forms when they hit the ground.

Spherical, or spheroidal, bombs form if the surface tension of the lava keeps it together into a roughly spherical shape.

If a spherical bomb spins while it is in the air, it can form into a spindle bomb, which is more football-shaped, with twisted ends.

Breadcrust bombs form as the outer layer cools, but then cracks apart as the interior continues to expand, so that the result looks like a loaf of freshly baked bread.

Ribbon bombs are produced when long streamers of semi-solid lava are ejected into the air, cooling into roughly cylindrical or ribbon-like shapes before they hit the ground.

So-called cow-dung bombs form when the lava bomb does not cool significantly in flight, so that it pancakes when it hits the ground, and ends up looking like a cow patty as it cools.

Lava bombs come in all sizes, from the tiny ones, less than ten centimeters wide, up to massive ones that can be up to 5 metres across and tip the scales at around 120 metric tons!

When lava flows over land, you can see some very strange reactions as it consumes everything in its path.

When lava buries plants and shrubs, methane gas is produced as a byproduct of burning vegetation.

Methane gas can seep into subsurface voids and explode when heated, or emerge from cracks in the ground several feet away from the lava. When ignited, the methane produces a blue flame.

With the eruption from Kilauea showing no signs of slowing down, at the moment, we may see even stranger things from this volcano.

Fissures are caused as lava forces its way through underground tubes, which connect the main magma chamber of the volcano with the ocean.

Many of these lava tubes exist on the island, and some become sealed off as lava congeals and hardens. This forces the lava through the remaining tubes.

With the increased flow due to this new eruption from Kilauea, combined with few paths for the lava to follow, the added pressure in the lava tubes has caused some of the tubes that lie just beneath the surface to break open, exposing the lava to the open air.

Kīlauea is a currently active shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, and the most active of the five volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaiʻi.

Located along the southern shore of the island, the volcano is between 300,000 and 600,000 years old and emerged above sea level about 100,000 years ago.

It is the second youngest product of the Hawaiian hotspot and the current eruptive center of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain.

Because it lacks topographic prominence and its activities historically coincided with those of Mauna Loa, Kīlauea was once thought to be a satellite of its much larger neighbor.

Structurally, Kīlauea has a large, fairly recently formed caldera at its summit and two active rift zones, one extending 125 km (78 mi) east and the other 35 km (22 mi) west, as an active fault of unknown depth moving vertically an average of 2 to 20 mm (0.1 to 0.8 in) per year.

Kīlauea has been erupting nearly continuously since 1983 and has caused considerable property damage, including the destruction of the town of Kalapana in 1990.

On May 3, 2018, several lava vents opened in the lower Puna area, downrift from the summit.

The new volcanic episode was accompanied by a strong earthquake of Mw 6.9, and nearly 2,000 residents were evacuated from Leilani Estates and the adjacent Lanipuna Gardens development.

By May 9, 2018, the eruption had destroyed 27 houses in the Leilani Estates subdivision. On May 17, 2018 at 4:17 AM, the volcano explosively erupted, throwing ash 30,000 feet into the air.


Tourism Observer

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