Earth  ID: 30962

Sulfur Dioxide Leaks from Kilauea

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.”

For More Information

NASA Earth Observatory


Joshua Stevens (Science Systems and Applications Inc. (SSAI)): Lead Visualizer
Adam P. Voiland (Science Systems and Applications Inc. (SSAI)): Writer
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA's Earth Observatory

Short URL to share this page:

Data Used:
Suomi NPP/Ozone Mapping Progiler Suite (OMPS)/Limb Data
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.

DLESE >> Geology
DLESE >> Natural hazards
DLESE >> Structural geology
SVS >> Sulfur Dioxide
SVS >> Volcano
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Solid Earth >> Volcanoes >> Lava
GCMD >> Location >> Hawaii
SVS >> Hyperwall
NASA Science >> Earth
SVS >> Suomi

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version