Volcano Kilauea Has Created "New Land" With Its Lava

And people already want to know who owns it.

by Josie Rhodes Cook

The thing about the lava from Kilauea is that it’s eventually supposed to cool down and stop destroying everything in its path. In fact, once everything in Hawaii has settled down, the lava will actually have created something new in the aftermath of all that destruction, as Kilauea has created new land with its lava — land that literally didn’t exist before.

Kilauea has spilled 113.5 million cubic meters of lava onto Hawaii’s Big Island, according to ABC affiliate WPVI-TV and an estimate from the United States Geological Survey. It could cover Manhattan island to a depth of over six feet, so is it any wonder that there’s enough of it to create more land in Hawaii?

What’s more, USGS scientists reportedly don’t know when the eruption will finally stop, or if more vents spewing out lava will open up. At this point, it’s unclear what the final result of Kilauea’s eruption and resulting destruction will look like.

Kilauea Volcano 

National Park Service

How Did This Happen?

Over 20 fissures gushed lava from Kilauea on the Big Island, and it had to go somewhere. WPVI-TV reported Saturday that the lava covers more than 5,000 acres and is up to 20 feet deep in certain places.

How Much New Land Is There?

Some of what Kilauea’s lava has covered didn’t exist as land before — like where the lava has flowed into Kapoho Bay and created approximately 1.5km of new land already, *The Daily Express reported Monday.

The USGS is reportedly unsure how much new land there will be once all is said and done, but that the 1960 Kilauea flows added .75 square miles to the island. In other words, this is something the Big Island has seen before — and in pretty recent memory, at that.

Who Owns the Land?

Many people are wondering who owns the new land created by lava from Kilauea because we live in a capitalistic society that demands everything be owned by someone. Apparently, any new land formed by lava within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is owned by the federal government, The Daily Express reported.

David Callies, a law professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who specializes in land use, told Motherboard via email:

‘New’ land belongs to the state, such as land formed by cooling and therefore hardening lava spilling into the ocean.

Which is basically what happened with Kilauea and Kapoho Bay.

What About Land That Was Already There?

Lava that covers land that was previously privately owned doesn’t change hands, and isn’t suddenly acquired by the government, according to Motherboard. That’s good news for the owners of the estimated 600 homes destroyed by lava from Kilauea so far, who will have to decide whether to rebuild.

Kilauea has already created over a mile of land that wasn’t there before, and there’s no telling just how much new land will be there when the lava finally stops flowing.