So far the two-month long eruption of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii has sown an epic amount of destruction, covering entire neighborhoods with lava, evaporating the island’s largest lake and transforming a tropical landscape to something more like Mordor.
But while the devastation is both tragic and impressive, there is some irony in that the eruption is actually a net gain for this island, at least in terms of total land mass.
Lava erupted from two dozen fissures in Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone, transforming the Puna area, especially the communities of Leilani Estates and Kapoho. But in recent weeks most of the action has come from fissure 8, which has been providing steady and even rapid flows of lava making its way down to the ocean entry at Kapoho.
A few months ago, there was a picturesque half-moon bay at this spot, but since then lava has completely filled in the bay and begun forming a brand new lava delta. As of Friday, the eruption had laid down a total of 585 acres of new land where previously there was only ocean. That’s almost an entire square mile of added land mass, and each day it grows further.
But despite what you may have heard, the creation of new real estate in paradise doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Actually, the law says all those new acres belong to the Hawaiian state government. But with the ongoing eruption showing no signs of slowing, it’s going to be a while before any new state parks or beaches are constructed.
Besides, the reshaping of the coastline may just be getting started. According to data from the USGS, last week the lava delta and the island grew at a rate of about ten new acres added each day.