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Since Hawaii’s Kilauea began erupting on May 3, the list of threats has seemed endless with lava tides, volcanic smog, lava haze, lava fountains, shards of glass in the wind, ash clouds, and a geothermal plant inundated with lava. Now, however, residents are noticing something a little more pleasant from the eruption: green crystals. Yes the Kilauea volcano is literally erupting green GEMS.
Embedded in the lava still spewing some 130 feet into the air from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano are green crystals. Called olivine, these minerals can turn Hawaiian beaches green, and it appears some of the green gems are raining down upon homes near the eruption or popping up near lava flows. “Yes, the lava that is erupting now is very crystal-rich and it is quite possible that residents might be finding olivine. It can be carried in the pumice [rapidly cooled lava] pieces that have been rained all over the area or left behind when weaker lava rocks are crushed by cars or foot traffic, ” explained Cheryl Gansecki.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Wendy Stovall said the phenomenon is to be expected. She said: “It’s pretty common. There’s often olivine in rocks all over Hawaii.”
Olivine is one of the most common minerals on earth. It is a rock-forming mineral, typically found in igneous rocks (formed when molten rock, or lava, solidifies). Most Olivine found at the Earth’s surface is within the rocks at divergent tectonic plate boundaries and hot spots – just like Hawaii. Olivine crystallises at a very high temperature, meaning it is one of the first minerals to crystallise from magma. This is why the little green gems can be seen raining down near lava flows, as they would have been sitting within the volcano already.
Ms Stovall said: “It really is one of the first things to form.”
The ones being spotted in people’s gardens would have “just kind of fallen out” of the lava as it spews from the active fissures. Olivine is very easily weathered, so it is most commonly seen at the earth’s surface in the form of sand – resulting in Hawaii’s green beaches.
What is happening in Hawaii?
Since the eruption began, the volcano has destroyed approximately 7 homes and forced thousands into temporary shelters. Power and telephone lines have been damaged, and huge swathes of land and roads have been wiped out. The damage to the geothermal plant is still unknown.
No one has been killed by this period of activity, but one man was seriously injured when he was hit in the leg by a lava bomb.
Kilauea has been in a constant cycle of activity since 1983, turning eruptive after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the area in late April. This is being cited as an unprecedented event, as there are two eruptions occurring simultaneously. The first is the eruption at Kilauea’s summit crater, and the second along a six-mile string of 25 fissures down its east flank, known as the East Rift Zone.