Mount Kilauea may have disappeared from the news for a while, but it isn’t done surprising us yet: the Hawaiian volcano has officially created a new island in the Pacific Ocean. Geologists working at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have reported the appearance of a tiny islet, measuring 20-30 feet in diameter, off the eastern shore of Hawaii. The new island was first seen by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) when it conducted a fly-by of the volcanic area on Friday, July 13. Records from the USGS mark the island’s inception and official birth date as July 12.
As of Monday, July 16, the baby island has been declassified, forced to abandon its status after a tether to the mainland developed over the weekend. The official term for the new congealed lava structure is ‘tumulus’. Tumuli evolve as slow-moving molten lava forces newly formed crust upward.
The most reasonable explanation for the accumulation is the overflowing of lava from the volcano’s East Rift Zone. This molten river has continued its advance into the ocean for over a month, creating a submerged segment of new-but-unstable territory that stretches almost a half-mile outwards from Hawaii’s shoreline. Other scientists attribute the new island to Fissure 8, the most active of Kilauea’s volcanic fissures.
In the future, it would be no surprise to see more changes to Hawaii’s coast. Kilauea, whose name means ‘spewing’ in Hawaiian, has been continuously erupting since 1983, with records dating back to the early 1800s. In fact, Kilauea tops the charts as one of the most active volcanoes in the world despite being one of Hawaii’s youngest. The 2018 eruption marks Kilauea’s 61st official incident.
Regardless of the newbie island’s complicated classification status, Hawaii will eventually boast a newer, slightly larger coastline for tourists and environmental enthusiasts to admire. In fact, many visitors have already posted selfies with the volcano on social media despite warnings against it. However, it’s safe to assume that most of us are waiting for a less perilous way to explore Hawaii’s new treasures. Perhaps a good old Google Maps update is in order?
Images via USGS