By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 24, 2018 1:47 PM CDT
(NEWSER) – Scientists in Hawaii have captured rare images of blue flames burning from cracks in the pavement as the Kilauea volcano gushes fountains of lava in the background, offering insight into a new dimension in the volcano’s weeks-long eruption. Volcanos produce methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. The gas flows through the ground and up through existing cracks. “It’s very dramatic. It’s very eerie,” Jim Kauahikaua, a US Geological Survey scientist, told reporters. He said it was only the second time he’s ever seen blue flames during an eruption, the AP reports. The methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. It can also cause explosions when it’s ignited while trapped underground. These blasts can toss blocks several feet away, said Wendy Stovall, also a scientist at the Geological Survey.
Hawaii County has ordered about 2,000 people to evacuate from Leilani Estates and surrounding neighborhoods since the eruption began on May 3. The volcano has opened more than 20 vents in the ground that have released lava, sulfur dioxide, and steam. The lava has been pouring down the flank of the volcano and into the ocean miles away. The eruption has destroyed 50 buildings, including about two dozen homes. One person was seriously injured after being hit by a flying piece of lava (read his story here). Tourism officials cheered news that a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship that tours the Hawaiian Islands would resume stopping in Kailua-Kona next week. Businesses catering to tourists on the cruise have been hurt since the company suspended Big Island port visits after the eruption began.