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Friday, May 4, 2018

PUNA AGAIN BECOMES THE MOST DANGEROUS SPOT ON EARTH

Well, my blog of yesterday certainly showed signs of prescience.  Almost four years ago I posted on:


I identified Puna as more dangerous than Ocean County, New Jersey, which TIME magazine noted to be #1.  The flow of lava was bad enough, but there were also Hurricanes Isselle and Julio.

It was on 3January1983 that Kilauea Volcano first erupted.  I just happened to be golfing at the Volcano Golf Course that day, when, on the tenth hole we felt the ground shudder:

Soon thereafter, we saw fountains of lava a couple of hundred yards high only a few hundred yards from where we stood.  This was the beginning of the current Kilauea eruption, which has now continuously gone on for three decades PLUS FIVE YEARS AND FOUR MONTHS.

Thus, this eruption has now been ongoing for 35 years and four months.

In the 1970's I suffered from numerous mosquito bites while I helped explore for and succeed in tapping geothermal energy in Puna:

While I was the reservoir engineer in the mid-1970's with UH-Hilo Professor Bill Chen on HGP-A, one of the only examples of anything renewable in Hawaii that actually worked the first time, my interest was more on the total product potential, as I helped get started the Community Geothermal Technology Program, also known as Noi'i O Puna (NOP), or the geothermal equivalent of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority for OTEC on the other side of the island. 

It was in January of 1960 that Puna experienced over a thousand small earthquakes, sort of like during the past week, a similar eruption occurred just above Kapoho town and buried the town, destroying 100 homes and businesses, including a hot spring resort.  The town is gone...expect scattered are some very expensive homes valued at more than a million dollars each.

In 1955 something similar also happened, and, perhaps, this event can serve as a clue to what will occur in Leilani Estates (that orange spot on the island), for yesterday a 500-foot fissure opened up here, throwing lava fountains to as high as 150 feet.  Close by is the 38 MW Puna Geothermal Venture power plant, which was forced to close down operations, for lava would flow in this general direction should that occur.  There were more than 1500 people living in this area, and they were mostly evacuated.  Leilani Estates is just to the left of the geothermal facility:


So, to summarize, the flow from upslope Kilauea Volcano towards Pahoa took several months in 2014 and 2015.  The 3May2018 eruption jumped a few miles downstream from where the flow stopped just short of Pahoa in the Kapoho direction, and in a worst case scenario could wipe out all geothermal electricity production in Hawaii.  In many ways, this should not have been too surprising, for the following map shows past lava flows:


As information becomes available, I'll continue to show updates.

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