Getting insured on an active volcano

On second thought, living on an active volcano might be problematic.

The Royal Gardens subdivision in Hawai'i being inundated with lava flows during a 1983 eruption of Kilauea. Image courtesy of the USGS.

The game of insurance is everywhere in the news these days so it isn't too surprising to run across this brief article about the perils of getting insured if you live on an active volcano. Many people who live on the big island of Hawai'i face this challenge because a large swaths of the island fall into what is called a "Lava Zone 1", which more or less means that you live someplace that lava is likely to visit in the foreseeable future. Considering that the entire island is made of overlapping volcanoes and their associated lava flows, it is not too surprising that people would want to know where it is more or less likely that a lava flow might incur its slow-moving wrath. Thus, the division of the island into relative lava hazard zones. These zones represent areas that have been covered by lava over the last 200 and 750 years, as defined by Mullineux and Peterson for the USGS back in 1974. It pretty clearly shows that building in a Lava Zone 1 area that you have more than a 50-50 shot of being covered in lava over a 750 year period. Now, I'm not sure how this all breaks down in the vast computers of the insurance companies, but apparently its not a bet they're willing to take anymore. Lesson here might be that if you want to live in places like the slopes of Kilauea, insurance might not be easy to come by - but that is the tradeoff: natural beauty for a modern sense of security.

Just to remind you how active Kilauea is, the glow at the summit vent of the volcano has returned after being snuffed out by a rockfall earlier this summer. There is a brief infrared thermal video of the Halema`uma`u Crater showing the heat and gases escaping from the revived vent.

Related Articles

Why Japan's hikikomori isolate themselves from others for years

These modern-day hermits can sometimes spend decades without ever leaving their apartments.

700,000 Japanese people are thought to be hikikomori, modern-day hermits who never leave their apartments (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images).
Mind & Brain
  • A hikikomori is a type of person in Japan who locks themselves away in their bedrooms, sometimes for years.
  • This is a relatively new phenomenon in Japan, likely due to rigid social customs and high expectations for academic and business success.
  • Many believe hikikomori to be a result of how Japan interprets and handles mental health issues.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less