Sulfur Dioxide Leaks from Kilauea

  • Released Thursday, May 31, 2018

This series of images, created using data from the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) sensor on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, shows elevated concentrations of sulfur dioxide from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 5, 2018.

This series of images, created using data from the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) sensor on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, shows elevated concentrations of sulfur dioxide from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 5, 2018.

Hawaii’s Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983, but in late April and early May 2018 the volcanic eruption took a dangerous new turn. On May 3, 2018, several new fissures cracked open the land surface in the Leilani Estates subdivision, leaking gases and spewing fountains of lava. By May 7, 2018, slow-moving lava flows had consumed 35 homes in that community of 1,500 people.





This series of images, created using data from the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) sensor on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, shows elevated concentrations of sulfur dioxide on May 5, 2018, a few days after the new fissures opened up. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas that occurs naturally in magma. When magma is deep underground, the gas remains dissolved because of the high pressure. However, pressure diminishes as magma rises toward the surface, and gas comes out of solution forming bubbles in the liquid magma.





“The process is similar to what happens when a bottle of soda is opened,” explained Ashley Davies, a volcanologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The bubbles of sulfur dioxide and other volatiles, including water and carbon dioxide, begin to rise through the liquid magma and concentrate in the magma closest to the surface, so the first lava to erupt is often the most volatile-rich. There’s usually an increase in sulfur dioxide output right before lava reaches the surface, as the gas escapes from the ascending magma.”

Photo taken May 3, 2018. Photo credit: United States Geological Survey

Photo taken May 3, 2018. Photo credit: United States Geological Survey

For More Information



Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA's Earth Observatory

Release date

This page was originally published on Thursday, May 31, 2018.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 12:40 AM EST.


Datasets used in this visualization

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.