Research Press Release

Earth science: Kīlauea volcanic eruption triggered by rainfall

Nature

April 23, 2020

The 2018 eruption of the Kīlauea Volcano in Hawai’i may have been activated by extreme rainfall, suggests a paper in Nature. The findings indicate that rainfall should be taken into account when assessing volcanic hazards.

The 2018 eruption of the Kīlauea Volcano in Hawai’i may have been activated by extreme rainfall, suggests a paper in Nature. The findings indicate that rainfall should be taken into account when assessing volcanic hazards.

Jamie Farquharson and Falk Amelung examined the impact of rainfall on the 2018 eruption. Prior to the eruption, Hawai’i had several months of anomalously high precipitation. The authors show that rainfall had infiltrated the volcano’s subsurface, increasing the pore pressure to the highest level in nearly 50 years immediately before and during the eruption. They suggest that this weakened the volcano’s structure and allowed magma to intrude, resulting in the eruption. The authors conducted statistical analyses of historical eruptions of Kīlauea and found that from 1790 onwards nearly 60% of eruptions occurred in the rainy season, despite it being shorter than the dry season. This suggests a correlation between rainfall and Kīlauea’s eruptions throughout history.

The authors indicate that improving our understanding of the relationship between rainfall and volcanic eruptions might help us to forecast future rainfall-induced volcanic activity.

doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2172-5

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