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USGS Scientists Measure Growth of Hawaii Big Island Following 2018 Eruption

HILO, Hawaii (CBS/AP) -- Scientists measuring the thickness of Kilauea volcano's newest lava flows have said molten rock added as much as 180 feet of lava to parts of the Big Island last year. New land created in the ocean reaches as high as 919 feet.

The U.S. Geological Survey released the data last week along with a preliminary map of the flows.

Lava flows from a fissure on the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, May 12, 2018. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The volcano's latest eruption began last May in a residential area called Leilani Estates in Puna. It destroyed more than 700 homes before law flows started petering out in August.

The lava buried nearly 14 square miles of existing land. It added about 875 acres of new land to the island where molten rock flowed offshore.

Much of the new data was collected by unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters when the lava was flowing last summer, said Janet Babb, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Erupts Forcing Evacuations
A steam plume rises as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing from a Kilauea volcano fissure on Hawaii's Big Island May 20, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Scientists had to collect some data later because some spots were too remote for drones to reach or too dangerously infested with so-called laze plumes for helicopters to fly to. Laze forms when hot lava hits the ocean, reacts with sea water and sends hydrochloric acid and steam laced with fine glass particles into the air.

The U.S. Geological Survey is still examining the entire flow field and refining measurements done over the summer, Babb said.

"We'll be studying this eruption for years," she said. "There (are) a lot of studies still going on."

Babb said scientists hope to have a final lava thickness map completed in the next year.

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