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Water in volcano could net explosive eruptions

HONOLULU (AP) — For the first time in recorded history, a pond of water has been discovered inside the summit crater of Kilauea volcano, a development that could signal a shift to a more explosive phase of future eruptions.

After a week of questions about a mysterious green patch at the bottom of the volcano’s Halemaumau crater, the former home of a famed lava lake, researchers confirmed the presence of water Thursday, officials with the U.S. Geological Survey told The Associated Press on Friday.

“The question is what does this mean in the evolution of the volcano?” USGS scientist emeritus Don Swanson said.

Halemaumau has never had water since written observations began, he said, so the pond is unusual.

Scientists aren’t exactly certain what will happen next, but when lava interacts with water it can cause explosive eruptions.

One possibility is that lava could slowly heat up the groundwater and eventually create a new lava lake, Swanson said. Lava could also interact with the water table and create small explosions.

“The other possibility is that magma rises rapidly,” Swanson said. “That could produce a larger explosion.”

USGS officials stressed that there is currently “no reason to think hazards at the summit have increased or decreased” because of the water.

But Swanson said in June that the presence of water could be a significant switch in the long-term activity of the volcano.

Kilauea has a history of alternating between long periods of explosive eruptions and times of slower, so-called effusive phases.