New research suggests that the 2018 Kilauea eruption was triggered by extreme precipitation.
The eruption of Mount Kilauea, Hawaii, represented one of the most extraordinary eruptive sequences in at least 200 years, but the trigger remained elusive.
A major eruption of Mount Kilauea in 2018 was triggered by massive rainfall, according to new research. According to the conclusions of the group of scientists, this event was preceded by several months of abnormally high precipitation.
It has been hypothesized that sediments can trigger volcanic activity, but it remains unknown if they can have impacts at greater depths associated with magma transport.
In this new study, the authors show that immediately before and during the eruption, infiltration of sediment into the bowels of Kilauea volcano increased pore pressure at depths of 1 to 3 kilometers by 0.1-1 kilopascals, reaching its highest pressure in almost 50 years.
Scientists speculate that the weakening and mechanical collapse of the volcanic cone was caused by a change in pore pressure within the fault zone, which led to the appearance of fractures and ultimately triggered the eruption.
The trigger for the precipitation-induced eruption is consistent with the absence of prior summit inflation, showing that this intrusion - unlike others - was not caused by the violent intrusion of new magma into the rift zone.
In addition, statistical analysis of historical eruptions suggests that the nature of precipitation contributes significantly to the timing and frequency of Kilauea eruptions.
Thus, volcanic activity can be triggered by extreme precipitation causing rock erosion in volcanic cones - a factor that should be considered when assessing volcanic hazards.
In particular, increasingly extreme weather conditions associated with ongoing anthropogenic climate change could increase the potential for precipitation-induced volcanic eruptions around the world.