A Hot Forecast for the Plateau! Plus, a look at the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

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We will, at best, see an isolated shower or storm today, but after today the pattern becomes much more hostile to shower or storm development. The lack of showers and storms will mean mostly sunny skies and hot conditions. The humidity will be getting much higher, as well, especially over the weekend. The combination of heat and humidity will make it feel more like 90 degrees this weekend. This is our first real heat wave of the season, so be careful and not overdo it in the heat.

Next week continues to look like we’ll be affected by tropical moisture coming up from the Gulf. This would bring numerous showers and storms to our area for the middle to end of next week. I’ll keep you posted.

Wish me luck today! I am at Petros Joyner Elementary School in Morgan County today for career day. Hopefully I can convince some little people to grow up to be meteorologists!

DISCUSSION 

Since our weather has grown quite mundane, I thought I’d spend a little time today talking about the situation in Hawaii and the Kilauea volcano. As you’ve seen in the news, it is quite the disaster. Some folks have asked me how long will these residents have to wait before they can go back on their property? The answer to that is complicated, because there’s still so much we don’t know about volcanoes. Some volcanoes continue to erupt lave for years, others only spew it for days. The outside of the lave cools and hardens rather quickly, but farther down there may still be gooey lava. The bottom line is that the residents whose property is now covered in lava have lost their property. They can’t, not should they, even think about trying to go back.

In fact, this is all land that should never have been developed. And that was well understood.

Kilauea is what we refer to as a shield volcano. I had to dig out some of my old geology class notes to remember the differences in volcanoes. The shield volcanoes are some of your more “peaceful-erupting” volcanoes. You won’t see the dramatic lava exploding upward and violently shooting out of the top of the mountain with these, nor will you see ash shot tens of miles into the atmosphere. Instead, these volcanoes erupt more by splitting open the “veins” of the mountain, if you will. We call these veins fissures and they’re like rift zones along the mountain. They’re weaknesses in the mountain that the lava finds to seep through. It’s like dropping a hard-boiled egg on the floor. The cracks are the weaknesses (fissures) that anything gooey inside the egg would try to get through first.

A volcano is simply an opening for lava, steam, etc to escape. Volcanoes aren’t all the typical mountain top explosion that you may have pictured in your head. Mt. St. Helen’s, for instance, erupted by blowing the side off of the mountain. Other volcanoes have behaved similarly.

Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on earth and has been erupting continuously since 1983. Now, it’s become much more violent in its eruption. The folks who chose to live there were aware of all of this. This is why homeowners insurance does not cover this kind of loss for them. This is the same reason many homeowners insurance policies don’t cover storm surge flooding on the Gulf Coast. It’s going to happen sooner or later and insurance companies aren’t going to be stuck with the bill.

As the lave flows from the fissures and mountain top, it runs along the surface and eventually cools and hardens, forming a smooth surface and raising the elevation of the mountain with a new cover of ground. Shield volcanoes get their name from looking like a shield, which results in the layer of lava cooling and forming a smooth dome. All of the Hawaiian islands were formed this way but only the Big Island of Hawaii has active volcanoes. There are no threats of eruptions on any of the other islands. This is because the Hawaiian volcanoes are formed by a “hot spot”, a stationary region of weakness in the earth’s crust that allows eruptions to take place. As the Pacific Plate slides along this hot spot, older islands become displaced from the spot, while new islands emerge closer to the hot spot. You may have noticed on a map of plate tectonic boundaries that Hawaii is nowhere near any of these boundaries. The hot spot is what makes them so geologically active.

I used to teach in Physical Geography that what geology builds up, meteorology tears down. As the older Hawaiian islands are no longer being built, they are now subject to weathering from tropical rains. They will eventually erode down and disappear into the sea.

I hope this rundown helps you understand the volcano a bit better! I was always fascinated by geology in college and loved those courses. It’s not as cool as meteorology, but it’s darn close to it! ha

You all have a great day! And be glad our plateau has NO chance of blowing it’s top!

The look of a shield volcano. Notice it’s smooth slopes.

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The Hawaiin Islands were formed from a hot spot. It remains stationary, as the Pacific Plate moves overhead. Yellowstone was formed the exact same way.

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You’ll notice that Hawaii does not sit on a plate boundary. However, the hot spot gives them plenty of geologic activity!

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