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A new study by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and the University of Rhode Island shows that the Hawaiian islands were formed by eruptions of lava on the volcanoes’ surface — called extrusion — not internal emplacement of magma, as was previously thought.
The commonly held view before this study was that magma solidified in the rock before it reached the surface, creating structurally stronger flanks than lava flows do. Those estimates, however, were apparently based “on observations over a very short time frame, in the geologic sense,” according to a press release from the University of Hawaii.
The recent study shows that Hawaii’s volcanic activity is predominantly eruptive, which is bad news for the stability of a volcano’s flank, but good news for lava lovers.
According to Dr. Garrett Ito, Professor of Geology and Geophysics at UHM and a co-author of the recent study, “The 3-decade-old eruption along Kilauea’s [east rift zone] could last for many, many more decades to come.”
Kilauea, which is on the Big Island, is already among the world’s most active volcanoes. To the delight of tourists and photographers, it has boasted continuous eruptive activity since January of 1983.
To get an idea of how slowly the Hawaiian islands were formed, watch this amazing close-up video of a lava flow: