Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Erupts Forcing Evacuations

Lava and Smoke: Hawaii's Volcanic Eruption

More problems loom for Hawaii, including the possibility of explosive eruptions and ballistic lava rocks.

For an entire week, Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano has been spewing lava. The lava flow—slow, relentless—and dramatic plumes of smoke have led thousands to evacuate and to the destruction of dozens of buildings. And now, a new threat: The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory identified a new fissure in the ground, the 15th surface crack where lava and gasses are escaping.

The Fire Inside Mario Tama/Getty Images The Fire Inside The problem is that if too much lava escapes, it could lead to a lowering of the "lava lake" inside the volcano. That, in turn, could create high-pressure conditions which may spark explosive eruptions ejecting ballistic rocks of lava. Needless to say, ballistic lava rocks are something best avoided. (Pictured: Gas rises from a crater, illuminated by the glow of lava.) Where There's Smoke Mario Tama/Getty Images Where There's Smoke Here, U.S. Army National Guard member measures for sulfur dioxide gas. High levels of the gas are toxic, and have required thousands of nearby residents to evacuate. Wall of Lava Mario Tama/Getty Images Wall of Lava Above, Army National Guard First Lt. Aaron Hew Len walks toward a lava flow and downed power lines in the Leilani Estates neighborhood. Smoke Signals Mario Tama/Getty Images Smoke Signals The heat of the lava causes structures and vegetation to burn, adding smoke to the already gas-filled air. All Fall Down Mario Tama/Getty Images All Fall Down The collapsed Puu Oo crater on the Kilauea volcano. Talk to the Gods Mario Tama/Getty Images Talk to the Gods Residents left Ti leaves in front of a home located near a lava flow, meant as an offering to the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele.