Kilauea Eruption: Should You Cancel a Hawaiian Vacation?

May 17, 2018

6pm Thursday

You’ve probably heard that Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii had an explosive eruption just before sunrise today.  You can always get the latest info from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.  A column of smoke/ash rose well above 25,000 in the pre-dawn sky.  Here’s the view from a HVO camera on Mauna Loa, itself an active volcano.  The eruption column is on the left side of the pic.


This volcano doesn’t often see explosive events (unlike Pacific Northwest volcanoes).  Typically eruptions consist of lava oozing or fountaining out of the ground plus volcanic gases.  One question today:  “could the ash reach us?”.  That’s a good question with a simple answer.  YES, ash COULD reach us, but it would have to be a much larger eruption AND wind flow would have to be just right for it to get here.  So in reality, NO, it’s unlikely we will ever see ash from that volcano in the Pacific Northwest.

A much bigger question…SHOULD I CANCEL MY HAWAIIAN VACATION?  The  screaming answer is NO.  Why?  Because this eruption is only affecting a very specific small area on the Big Island.  

Mark Hawaii Volcano 1

Note that even 90% of folks on that island wouldn’t be aware anything is happening (except for occasional small earthquakes).

The typical low/mid level wind flow is from the northeast on this part of the globe; the famous “trade winds”.  That means most of the “vog” (volcanic haze) and ash/smoke heads to the southwest and off the southern tip of the island.  The vog does also move north to Kailua-Kona on the west side of the island in a typical windflow pattern.  But this leaves the rest of the island chain unaffected by this current (or any future) eruption of Kilauea.

Mark Hawaii Volcano 2

To make it crystal clear, this should do the trick…

Mark Hawaii Volcano 3

Are our volcanoes affected?  No, they form inland of the Cascadia Subduction Zone.  Hawaiian volcanoes from in the middle of a tectonic plate that moves over a “hot spot” on the earth’s surface.  Totally different setup and one is not related to the other.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen