Hawaii volcano generates blue flames from burning methane

National
100151075_1527186505785

PAHOA, HI – MAY 23: Blue flames of methane gas escape from a crack near a Kilauea volcano fissure in Leilani Estates, on Hawaii’s Big Island, on May 23, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. Officials are concerned that ‘laze’, a dangerous product produced when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will affect residents. Laze, a word […]

Blue flames from burning methane are the latest natural phenomena being seen at the eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

Nighttime photos released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey show the flames spouting from cracks in the pavement in the Leilani Estates neighborhood where the volcano has been gushing lava on the big island of Hawaii for the past three weeks.

The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees.

“The methane gas will flow through the ground, through the cracks that are already existing, and will come up wherever there’s a place for them to come up,” said Wendy Stovall, a scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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, Stovall said.

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.

Stovall said lava spatter from one of the vents was forming a wall that was helping protect a nearby geothermal plant.

Lava from that vent was shooting further into the air and producing the highest lava wall of all the vents, which was blocking molten rock from flowing north toward the plant.

Officials shut down Puna Geothermal shortly after the current eruption began.

On Tuesday, officials finished stabilizing wells that bring up hot liquid and steam to feed a turbine generator. A team from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the company continued Wednesday to plug the wells to make sure the fluid inside doesn’t move from one part of the well to the other, said Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for Hawaii County.

Earlier this month officials removed a flammable gas called pentane from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.

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 taken a hit since the company suspended Big Island port visits after the eruption began.

The company said it would resume calling on Hilo, a town on the eastern side of the island closer to the lava, when conditions allow.

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 U.S. Geological Survey scientist, told reporters.

He said it was only the second time he’s ever seen blue flames during an eruption.

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.

Stovall said lava spatter from one vent was forming a wall that was helping protect a nearby geothermal plant.

Lava from that vent was shooting further into the air and producing the highest lava wall of all the vents, which was blocking molten rock from flowing north toward the plant.

Officials shut down Puna Geothermal shortly after the eruption began.

On Tuesday, officials finished stabilizing wells that bring up hot liquid and steam to feed a turbine generator. A team from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the company continued Wednesday to plug the wells to make sure the fluid inside doesn’t move from one part of the well to the other, said Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for Hawaii County.

Earlier this month officials removed a flammable gas called pentane from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.

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.

PAHOA, HI: Resident Kathy Threlfall (C) hugs her daughter Jeni Mantupar as they watch lava erupting from a Kilauea volcano fissure in Leilani Estates, on Hawaii's Big Island, on May 23, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI: Susan Lovell, who recently moved to the area, walks as lava erupts and flows from a Kilauea volcano fissure in Leilani Estates, on Hawaii's Big Island, on May 23, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The company said it would resume calling on Hilo, a town on the eastern side of the island closer to the lava, when conditions allow.

___

Follow AP’s complete coverage of the Hawaii volcano here: https://apnews.com/tag/Kilauea

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest Video

Now Trending on KRQE.com

Video Forecast

Grant's Tuesday Evening Forecast

Thumbnail for the video titled "Grant's Tuesday Evening Forecast"
More Weather Video Forecast

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss