The 2018 eruption was big, worldwide news for quite some time. A number of people have asked whether we were impacted by the eruption. For people who haven’t been to the Big Island, they might have thought we were at risk of lava damage or that it might not be safe to visit the Big Island. Kona is on the west side, the opposite side of the island from where the flow was, almost as far away as you can get on the same island.
My last blog post talked about the strange year it has been for Kona coffee. And at the end of this post I’ve excerpted a part of the newspaper article that talks about what might be attributable to the eruption.
We recently made a trip to Volcanoes National Park which was closed from mid-May till late-September. This park is always fascinating to visit since it constantly changes, plus it’s beautiful. I was curious how different, post-eruption, it would look in real life; photos often don’t quite capture broad nature scenes for me.
Unfortunately, many trails, roads, and features were closed, as I expected. Just viewing the caldera as it is today, I didn’t think much looked particularly new or dramatic. However, it was very disorienting and disconcerting for me. The caldera looked familiar but so different. I couldn’t place what exactly had changed.
My whole lifetime I’ve seen the defined Halema’uma’u crater inside the caldera. We used to be able to walk on trails throughout the caldera and go to the crater inside the caldera. Before, we could stand on a platform at Halema’uma’u’s edge and look directly down into it. Later, when Halema’uma’u was active and had a lava lake, we would only be able to observe it from Jaggar Museum, now closed, on the caldera’s ledge. And now I couldn’t determine where exactly the crater was or had been.
That night when I got home, I did my Internet research and looked at photos and videos to try and better appreciate what I had seen that day. I found this recent 7-minute video from Volcanoes National Park best describes this year’s changes. I’ve watched this video many times and feel compelled to share it.
Here is an excerpt that pertains to the volcano from the 11/1/18 West Hawaii Today article, “Yield and profits down, prices up after coffee season cut short”
Farmers and researchers named a number of factors that likely contributed to cutting the coffee season short — less rainfall between April and June, increased vog manipulating the amount of light at different times during the season and the availability of labor.
And while the connections aren’t always entirely clear, many in the industry tied these effects to the most recent eruption at the Kilauea volcano, which stretched from May to August.
It starts with the rain. Coffee typically flowers when there’s a dry period followed by significant rainfall. Andrea Kawabata, extension agent at UH-CTAHR’s West Hawaii location, said the major bloom period is triggered by such patterns between March and June.
“When we had the volcano going, we had a really dry stretch,” she said. “I think that could have contributed to our shortened season.”
Shriner believes elevated vog levels dictated light patterns at a crucial time in the season and impacted yield. She referred to a report from the U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, which documented a notable reduction in available photosynthetic radiation during the eruption.
Shriner said she believes the combination of less rain and less sun early in the year contributed to less production and the shorter season, which actually led to more sun at the wrong time after the vog cleared.