USGS Volcano Hazards Program Volcano Update

HVO update page and observatory web site

Activity Summary: Slow summit inflation continued, and the summit lava lake rose slightly. At Pu`u `O`o, the lava lake in the northeast pit was active, and small lava flows were erupted from spatter cones on the northern and southern sides of the crater. Lava flows southeast of Pu`u `O`o continued to accumulate on the coastal plain at the base of the pali. Seismic tremor levels were low, and gas emissions were elevated.

Recent Observations at Kilauea summit: The summit continued to inflate slowly. The base level of the lava lake rose slightly in response, sporadically flooding the ledge along its southern side during minor fluctuations. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 600 tonnes/day on October 12, 2012. Although not measured today, very small amounts of ash-sized tephra (fresh spatter bits and Pele's hair) were probably carried out of the vent in the gas plume and deposited on nearby surfaces.

Seismic tremor levels have been dropping slowly. The GPS receiver network recorded weak extension across the caldera since early August, and this extension looks like it may be starting to accelerate. Eleven earthquakes were strong enough to be located beneath Kilauea: 1 within the upper east rift zone, 1 in the middle east rift zone, 8 on south flank faults, and 1 at the summit.

Background: The summit lava lake is deep within an ~160 m (520 ft) diameter cylindrical vent with nearly vertical sides inset within the east wall and floor of Halema`uma`u Crater. Its level fluctuates from about 50 m to more than 200 m (out of sight) below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater. The vent has been mostly active since opening with a small explosive event on March 19, 2008. Most recently, the surface level of the lava lake has remained below an inner ledge (~50 m or 165 ft below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater on October 9, 2012), sometimes rising to flood the ledge. The lake level responds to summit tilt changes with the lake receding during deflation and rising during inflation.

Recent Observations at the middle east rift zone vents: Surface flows continued to accumulate close to the base of the pali within the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision, with one branch extending seaward across the coastal plain. This branch was 1.7 km (~1 mile) from the shoreline when mapped on October 10, and has been creeping forward since. Minor flow activity also continues on the pali.

At Pu`u `O`o, the lava lake in the northeastern pit on the crater floor has risen a few meters since October 1, but showed no change overnight. A few more small flows were erupted from the spatter cone on the north side of the crater floor yesterday morning, but none since. A small flow erupted from a spatter cone in the southern pit early this morning.

The tiltmeter on the north flank of Pu`u `O`o cone recorded inflation through the day yesterday, but the signal leveled out overnight. GPS receivers spanning the Pu`u `O`o crater showed relatively rapid extension since the beginning of October. Seismic tremor levels near Pu`u `O`o were low. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 300 tonnes/day on October 12, 2012, from all east rift zone sources.

Background: The eruption in Kilauea's middle east rift zone started with a fissure eruption on January 3, 1983, and continued with few interruptions at Pu`u `O`o Cone, or temporarily from vents within a few kilometers to the east or west,. A fissure eruption on the upper east flank of Pu`u `O`o Cone on Sept. 21, 2011, drained the lava lakes and fed a lava flow that advanced southeast through the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision to the ocean within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park in early December. Since late December, the flows have remained intermittently active on the pali and the coastal plain but have not entered the ocean. In general, activity waxes with inflation and wanes with deflation.

Hazard Summary: East rift vents and flow field - near-vent areas could erupt or collapse without warning with spatter and/or ash being wafted within the gas plume; potentially-lethal concentrations of sulfur dioxide gas may be present within 1 km downwind of vent areas. All recently active lava flows are within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, adjacent State land managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and private property within the Royal Gardens subdivision; the lava flows do not pose a hazard to any structures not already within the County-declared mandatory evacuation zone. Kilauea Crater - ash and Pele's hair can be carried several kilometers downwind; potentially-lethal concentrations of sulfur dioxide can be present within 1 km downwind.

Viewing Summary: East rift zone flow field - The new breakout lava flows were within the closed-access Kahauale'a Natural Area Reserve (NAR) and the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision and can only be viewed from the air. Under favorable weather conditions, glow from these flows may be reflected in clouds which can be seen from the County Viewing Area at Kalapana (Lava hotline 961-8093). Pu`u `O`o Cone, the strip of coastal plain nearest the ocean, and Kilauea Crater - these areas are within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park; Park access and viewing information can be found at

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