Tale of Two Volcanoes

  • By Arlo Perez
  • Posted 06.14.18
  • NOVA

Two powerful volcanoes erupted in the same week, one in Guatemala, the other in Hawaii. The eruptions were not connected, and the devastation was entirely different. In Guatemala, a fast-moving pyroclastic flow engulfed the residents of a nearby village, killing more than a hundred people, and leaving a scene reminiscent of Pompeii. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, Kilauea’s slow-moving lava rivers have devastated hundreds of homes, although fortunately, they have not yet caused any deaths.

Running Time: 02:38


Tale of Two Volcanoes

Published June 14, 2018

Onscreen: Two volcanoes just erupted with destructive power. Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego and Hawaii’s Kilauea. The eruptions aren’t connected, and hazards are different

At Fuego, hot volcanic ash and mud engulfed a nearby village. At least 75 people died, over 3,000 evacuated. And the death toll is expected to climb

John Stix: EI Fuego is known for its pyroclastic flows.

Onscreen: Pyroclastic flows are not lava.

Stix: They’re very similar to snow avalanches. They move very fast, just like a snow avalanche does.

Onscreen: Except pyroclastic particles consist of volcanic ash and rock, tumbling down a volcano at hundreds of miles per hour

Stix: Anybody, or anything in the path of a pyroclastic flow, once it’s started, you don’t really have the time to get out of the way of it. So they will burn and asphyxiate anybody in their path. It’s a small-scale Pompeii, in a sense.

Onscreen: The rainy season just started in Guatemala, increasing the risk of mudflows called lahars.

Stix: Loose ash will mix with the rain and create mudflows that will impact a lot of people.

Onscreen: They can travel farther than pyroclastic flows.

Stix: They can move faster than you can run.

Onscreen: Meanwhile, new explosions at Kilauea rocked the summit, sending ash thousands of feet into the air. And a new massive river of lava is believed to have destroyed nearly 300 homes.

Stix: A lava flow is a slow-moving liquid which is highly viscous, not moving very fast...these lava flows have been moving slowly—people can get out of the way.

Onscreen: So far, Kilauea’s recent activity has caused no deaths. But there may be more hazards to come.

USGS Jessica Ballx: There is now a flow that has channelized south of the new delta.

Onscreen: Stirring up a laze: a dangerous mix of lava and haze. Residents continue to keep an eye on both volcanoes.



Fatima Husain
Digital Producer
Arlo Perez
USGS, AP, Getty, StoryBlocks, Shutterstock
Editorial Review
Julia Cort, Ari Daniel
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2018



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