Michael Garcia at Kīlauea summit. Photo courtesy of UH

Michael Garcia at Kīlauea summit. Photo courtesy of UH

Kīlauea, the Big Island’s famous volcano, has been erupting for more than 30 years, making it the one of longest-flowing volcano on Earth. Because of its remarkable and frequent activity, Kīlauea is one of the best-studied volcanoes on Earth, as reported by the University of Hawaiʻi.

UH Mānoa Geology Professor Michael Garcia has been leading studies of the chemistry of lavas from Kīlauea volcano for 40 years, adding to the extensive knowledge base on this volcano. Garcia was recently featured on PBS NewsHour.

“Kīlauea is the ideal place to study volcanoes,” Garcia said. “I have been extremely fortunate to be at UH Mānoa at the right time to witness and help document one of Kīlauea most amazing historical eruptions. It is a shock that 33 years after I predicted that this eruption might last longer than the previous ones that it is still continuing with no end it sight. So much has been learned from this eruption about how molten rock is generated in the mantle and the changes that occur as it travels over 60 miles to the surface.”

Geology graduate student Kendra Lynn analyzes the mineral olivine—the first mineral to crystallize out of magma—to understand more about the history of the magma, especially how long these minerals are stored within the volcano.

“I’m excited about the research we are doing with olivine crystals because they inform us about the history of a magma before it erupts,” Lynn said. “This type of investigation helps us to understand the long-term history of Kīlauea, building on what we know from modern day eruptions. There is still much to learn about Kīlauea and Hawaiian volcanoes, and studying olivine is a fundamental approach to expand our knowledge about these systems.”

The study of volcanoes in general, and Kīlauea in particular, allows researchers to answer basic questions about how volcanoes work and to hopefully predict their future behavior.