From U Hawai’i at Manoa (US) : “Volcanic eruptions and hurricanes affect rainfall on Hawaiʻi Island”

From U Hawai’i at Manoa (US)

May 7, 2021

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Sampling a rain collector near the Puʻu Lāʻau cabin on Maunakea. Credit: Kiana Frank.

To better understand how and where groundwater is recharged on Hawaiʻi Island, a team of earth and atmospheric scientists from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa looked to the source—rainfall. In a published study, the team reported a time-series of rainfall data which highlights that extreme events, such as volcanic eruptions and hurricanes, can affect the chemistry of precipitation.

The researchers measured hydrogen and oxygen isotopes and the chemical composition of rainfall from central to leeward Hawaiʻi Island at 20 stations. Rain water isotopes help scientists identify the origin of groundwater and understand the recharge processes in a region.

Preparing for future water security

The results from this study can be used to better quantify and characterize precipitation—the ultimate source of Hawaiʻi’s groundwater.

“In order to better serve communities in Hawaiʻi, specifically in access to fresh water and ensuring better water management, we need to understand where the groundwater is recharging and how it flows in the different aquifer systems,” said Diamond Tachera, lead author of the study and graduate researcher at UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). “This is critical to future water security.”

Serendipitous timing

Hawaiʻi Island is characterized by the interactions of Pacific trade wind flow with two 13,000-feet high mountains, as well as one of the largest natural emitters of sulfur dioxide on the planet—Kīlauea Volcano.

The study period included an extreme weather event, Hurricane Lane, a major volcanic eruption at Kīlauea in 2018 and the nearly-complete cessation of long-term volcanic emissions after that historic event.

“These events allowed us the rare opportunity to investigate the impact of volcanic emissions such as sulfate (also known as vog) and a hurricane on precipitation chemistry,” said Tachera.

Consistent with previous research, the study revealed long-term variability in rainfall chemistry due to changes in atmospheric and climate processes in this region. Additionally, the team found significantly more sulfate in the rain samples collected during the Kīlauea eruption and substantially less after the volcanic activity ceased.

This research is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

See the full article here .

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The University of Hawaiʻi system, formally the University of Hawaiʻi is a public college and university system that confers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through three university campuses, seven community college campuses, an employment training center, three university centers, four education centers and various other research facilities distributed across six islands throughout the state of Hawaii in the United States. All schools of the University of Hawaiʻi system are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The U.H. system’s main administrative offices are located on the property of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Honolulu CDP.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is the flagship institution of the University of Hawaiʻi system. It was founded as a land-grant college under the terms of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Programs include Hawaiian/Pacific Studies, Astronomy, East Asian Languages and Literature, Asian Studies, Comparative Philosophy, Marine Science, Second Language Studies, along with Botany, Engineering, Ethnomusicology, Geophysics, Law, Business, Linguistics, Mathematics, and Medicine. The second-largest institution is the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo on the “Big Island” of Hawaiʻi, with over 3,000 students. The University of Hawaiʻi-West Oʻahu in Kapolei primarily serves students who reside in Honolulu’s western and central suburban communities. The University of Hawaiʻi Community College system comprises four community colleges island campuses on O’ahu and one each on Maui, Kauaʻi, and Hawaiʻi. The schools were created to improve accessibility of courses to more Hawaiʻi residents and provide an affordable means of easing the transition from secondary school/high school to college for many students. University of Hawaiʻi education centers are located in more remote areas of the State and its several islands, supporting rural communities via distance education.

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